The German Government adopts an amendment to act against restraints of competition to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic on competition law enforcement

On 28 May 2020, an amendment to the Act against Restraints of Competition which aims at mitigating the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on competition law enforcement was published in the Federal Gazette. The amendment adjusts the law with regard to two specific provisions where companies may face issues as a result of the COVID- 19 pandemic: (i) the payment of fines for infringements of competition law; and (ii) merger control review periods.

According to the amended law, the payment of interest on fines for infringements of competition law will be deferred until 30 June 2021. Under the existing law, it was possible for the German Federal Cartel Office (the “FCO”) to grant payment facilities such as a deferral or payment in fixed instalments if the undertaking concerned was unable to pay the fine immediately due to financial circumstances. However, the interest on fines imposed on legal persons and associations still remained due. Under the amended rules, the interest on fines will also be deferred if payment facilities are granted for the fine. The measure is planned to ease the burden on companies that have suffered liquidity problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further, the amendments temporarily extend the review periods for concentrations notified between 1 March and 31 May 2020. Under the amended rules, the Phase I review period will be two months instead of one month. The length of an in-depth analysis under a Phase II review will be extended from four to six months. The extensions will not apply if the deadlines have already expired or if the concentration has already been cleared at the time of the entry into force of the amended rules. The rationale behind the extended deadlines is that many companies currently have limited capacities to respond to enquiries from the FCO in a timely manner. The amendment will enter into force on 29 May 2020.

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Author

  • Van Bael & Bellis (Brussels)

Quotation

Martin Favart, The German Government adopts an amendment to act against restraints of competition to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic on competition law enforcement, 29 May 2020, e-Competitions July 2020, Art. N° 95199

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