On 14 July 2021, the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) applied for the imposition of a EUR 45.37 million fine as part of its investigations into the Austrian construction industry. The application concerned two companies from the STRABAG Group, namely STRABAG AG and F. Lang u. K. Menhofer Baugesellschaft m.b.H. & Co. KG (“STRABAG”; see also AFCA’s press release of 14 July 2021).
Cartel Court fines STRABAG as requested by AFCA
On 21 October 2021, the Cartel Court has now imposed the fine as requested by AFCA (27 Kt 12/21 y). STRABAG was found to have infringed § 1 (1) of the Austrian Cartel Act (KartG) and Article 101 (1) TFEU on the grounds of a single and continuous infringement in the form of illegal price fixing, market sharing and information exchange with competitors with regard to public and private tenders in the sector of building construction and civil engineering in Austria during the period from July 2002 to October 2017. The decision is final.
STRABAG applied for leniency and subsequently cooperated fully and on a continuous basis, also acknowledging its infringement for use in proceedings before the Cartel Court. The AFCA therefore applied for a reduced fine.
Economic sector concerned
Planning and execution of building construction and civil engineering projects.
Investigations conducted by AFCA to date
Please refer to the press releases relating to AFCA’s applications in October 2020 and April 2021, as well as to the settlement talks with PORR AG, recently conducted with the Federal Cartel Prosecutor and successfully completed (see our press release of 30 September 2021), for further details about AFCA’s investigations into the Austrian construction sector.
Fines for cartels
The Austrian Federal Cartel Act prohibits any behaviour that prevents or distorts competition. This covers price fixing agreements or the division of markets or territories. At the AFCA’s request, the Cartel Court may impose fines of up to 10% of an entity’s total turnover generated in the preceding business year if that entity is found to have breached the rules banning cartels. Fines are assessed based on the gravity and duration of the breach, the degree of fault, and the economic strength and cooperation of the company concerned.