German cartel office pockets hefty fines for irregularities | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 26.06.2013
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German cartel office pockets hefty fines for irregularities

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office has said it imposed hundreds of millions of euros in fines on companies found to have been involved in price rigging. Sanctions could soon become even higher, it says.

The Federal Cartel Office announced Wednesday it had collected about half a billion euros ($652.3 million) in fines over the past two years. It said the financial sanctions imposed for market irregularities amounted to 189.8 million euros in 2011 and to 316 million euros during the following year.

According to the office's president, Andreas Mundt, 34 violations of fair competition were punished. The level of fines projected for the current year were expected to reach the same level of those levied in previous years, Mundt said in a statement.

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Mundt singled out a 124.5-million-euro fine last year that was slapped on a number of companies known to have been involved in a rail track price-rigging scandal. The cartel office also scrutinized a large number of the over 2,000 planned mergers in the past two years, but prohibited only six of them.

Sanctions to rise

The Federal Cartel Office also announced that it was currently reviewing its policy of imposing fines for irregularities in line with a recent ruling by the Federal Court of Justice.

A likely outcome would be higher fines for big companies, with milder sanctions for smaller firms, Mundt said.

"In the case of enterprises which are active in many markets and are found to have been a party to price-rigging concerning a single product, fines to be imposed may be a lit higher in future," the office's president said.

Right now, the authority is looking into a number of large-scale price-rigging schemes, involving companies producing potatoes as well as producers of steel for the automotive industry in Germany.

hg/kms (AFP, Reuters)

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