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Joiner cartel: First decision final

In the course of its investigations into the joinery/cabinetmaking industry, the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) had filed an application with the Cartel Court on 16 February 2022 to impose a fine of EUR 69 000 on a first company, namely Norer Tischlereigesellschaft m.b.H., on account of it having infringed § 1 para. 1 of the Austrian Cartel Act (KartG) (see also AFCA’s press release of 21 February 2022).

Cartel Court fines Norer Tischlereigesellschaft m.b.H. as requested by AFCA

The Cartel Court has now imposed the fine on Norer Tischlereigesellschaft m.b.H. as requested by AFCA, with its decision issued on 12 May 2022 (127 Kt 1/22t). The company was found to have participated in a single and continuous infringement of § 1 para. 1 KartG during the period from December 2013 until at least September 2019; the infringement took the form of illegal price fixing, market divisions and the exchange of information with competitors, particularly by reaching agreement on the successful tenderer including submission of bogus offers in relation to calls for tenders for joinery/cabinetmaking jobs in Lower Austria, Vienna and Tyrol. The decision is final.

Norer Tischlereigesellschaft m.b.H has cooperated continuously and fully under the leniency programme to completely clarify the facts of the case, and has also acknowledged the infringement for use in proceedings before the Cartel Court. The AFCA therefore applied for a markedly reduced fine.

Economic sector concerned

Joinery and cabinetmaking services

Investigations conducted by AFCA in the joinery/cabinetmaking industry so far

After the City of Vienna Court of Audit had drawn the AFCA’s attention to the matter, the Authority carried out dawn raids at several companies engaged in the joinery/cabinetmaking business in 2019. These companies were suspected of having engaged in concerted practices in relation to public contracts in the health sector. Further details about AFCA’s investigations in the joinery/cabinetmaking industry can be found in the press releases on the Authority’s applications of February 2022 and March 2022.

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 on the basis of the gravity and duration of the breach, the degree of fault, and the economic strength and cooperation of the company concerned.