The Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) has filed applications for the imposition of an appropriate fine for price fixing and concerted practices, specifically in relation to the award of contracts, on the companies:
- KARMASIN RESEARCH & IDENTITY GMBH,
- BB Research Affairs GmbH and Beinschab Business GmbH, as well as
- Edeltraud Geppel-Mikes.
The applications were filed with the Cartel Court on 9 March 2023.
The AFCA initiated investigations on the basis of its cooperation with the Central Public Prosecutor for Economic Crime and Corruption (WKStA) in the “Sabine Beinschab” criminal case due to suspected anti-competitive concerted practices in relation to tender procedures (§ 168b para. 1 of the Austrian Criminal Code – StGB) in the area of studies and opinion polls. Concerted practices in relation to tenders constitute a cartel law infringement and are subject to the national and European ban on cartels. Such “hardcore infringements” are among the most serious violations of cartel law.
The investigations revealed that the companies had entered into anti-competitive arrangements in advance of the award of a total of five contracts for market research studies for one public and two private clients. According to our findings, the companies coordinated their bids and bid prices in order to induce the client to accept a specific bid, namely the bid submitted by the “cheapest” bidder, KARMASIN RESEARCH & IDENTITY GMBH. The two other competitors, who were involved in these practices, often went on to carry out part of these contracts in the capacity of subcontractor.
As part of our ongoing cooperation, law enforcement agencies regularly provide the AFCA with factual information needed to prosecute violations of cartel law. Conversely, the AFCA fulfils its duty to report potential criminal offences, in many cases working closely with the WKStA and the Federal Bureau of Anti-Corruption (BAK). Cartel law and criminal law enforcement bodies cooperate with one another not least because employees of principal witnesses under cartel law may benefit from a privileged status in criminal law (§ 209b StPO).