Based on the 11th Amendment to the German Competition Act (Gesetz gegen Wettbewerbsbeschränkungen, “GWB”) that was passed by the German parliament (Bundestag) on 6 July 2023, the GWB will undergo significant reform (the “Reform”). Among other Reform amendments, attention has focused on the Federal Cartel Office’s (Bundeskartellamt, “FCO”) new powers in the context of sector inquiries (Sektoruntersuchungen). According to the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action (Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz, “BMWK”), the amendments intend to strengthen business opportunities for competitors, start-ups and small / medium sized entities.
For the first time under German competition law, the FCO will obtain powers to take remedial measures following sector inquiries, even where the addressee has not been found to have engaged in anti-competitive conduct. Under the Reform, the FCO will be able to take measures where it identifies a significant and continuing ‘disruption of competition’ (Störung des Wettbewerbs) in the relevant market. Such measures will include – as ultima ratio – divestment orders (new Section 32f of the GWB).
In this blog-post we: explain the concept of sector inquiries under the GWB in general; and analyse the key amendments to the FCO’s sector inquiry powers, the most significant changes under the Reform.