Bundestag Passes 8th Amendment of Act Against Restraint of Competition

On 18 October 2012 the German Parliament (Bundestag) adopted the 8th Amendment of the Act Against Restraints on Competition (GWB; ref. no. 17/9852) as amended by the Bundestag’s Economics and Technology Committee (ref. no. 17/11053. The bill contains provisions affecting the electricity and gas sector.

The amendment further approximates German and European merger control law, contains special provisions intended to prevent market impediments by large mineral oil companies to the detriment of smaller rivals, extends the GWB to statutory health insurance companies and strenghtens the position of consumer protection agencies to enforce the GWB.

Besides, the amendment extends Section 29 GWB, which was due to expire on 31 December 2012, by another five years. According to Section 29 GWB, an undertaking, which is a supplier of electricity or pipeline gas (public utility company) on a market in which it has a dominant position, is prohibited from abusing such position by demanding fees or other business terms which are less favourable than those of other public utility companies or undertakings in comparable markets, or demanding fees which unreasonably exceed the costs. Although competition in the energy markets had increased, competition in certain areas, namely heating, did not exist to a sufficient degree, the justification given for the bill points out.

The bill shall enter into force on 1 January 2013. The Federal Council that represents the interests of the Federal States may still object to the bill, but since the bill is not a so-called “consent law”, which expressly requires consent by the Federal Council, Parliament can overrule an objection by the the Federal Council (regarding the necessary parliament majorities, please see Article 77 para. 4 GG).

Source: Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology

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