The German Competition Authority announces modifications to the German Competition Act due to COVID-19 are coming into force

Modifications to German Competition Act (GWB) due to COVID-19 come into force*

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic modifications to the German Competition Act (GWB), which will come into force on Friday 29 May 2020, have been announced today in the German Federal Law Gazette. The modifications are limited in time and concern statutory time limits for the examination of mergers and rules on the interest payable on fines.

With regard to competition law and industry self-management the German Act to Mitigate the Consequences of the COVID-19 Pandemic supplements Section 186 of the GWB by two paragraphs:

The new Section 186(7) of the GWB extends the statutory time limit for examining mergers notified to the Bundeskartellamt between 1 March 2020 and 31 May 2020. For such mergers the Bundeskartellamt now has two months instead of one to decide whether the merger project needs to be examined in more detail or can be cleared (first phase proceedings). The statutory time limit for second phase proceedings, during which a merger project is examined in more detail, is extended from four to six months. The extension of the time limit also applies to proceedings referred to the Bundeskartellamt by the European Commission.

The statutory time limits in merger control are particularly short and the Bundeskartellamt conducts comprehensive investigations involving for example market surveys or talks with market participants on a regular basis. This one-off extension to the statutory time limits facilitates the necessary merger control examinations in the affected markets, in particular at third-party companies. The extension was introduced to account for the fact that many companies are currently unable to respond to the Bundeskartellamt’s questionnaires within the stipulated time limits.

The new Section 186(8) of the GWB suspends the obligation to pay interest on antitrust fines until 30 June 2021 if relaxations of payment conditions have been granted. Under the existing regulations the Bundeskartellamt can already grant relaxations of payment conditions (extensions or instalments) if based on its economic situation a company cannot be reasonably expected to pay the full amount at once. However, the GWB stipulates that interest is payable on fines if extended payment periods are granted. The new rules allow the Bundeskartellamt to extend the periods for the payment of fines without interest for a limited amount of time in order to account for the exceptional financial burden associated with the COVID-19 crisis.

*This is the original title of the press release. The title above has been amended in order to match the e-Competitions format. Individual authors are welcome to provide original independent commentaries on the case law. Articles are subject to approval by the Board of e-Competitions Bulletin before publication based on the Editorial Policy (click here).

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German Competition Authority, The German Competition Authority announces modifications to the German Competition Act due to COVID-19 are coming into force, 10 June 2020, e-Competitions June 2020, Art. N° 95329

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