New decision division for consumer protection -
The 9th Amendment to the German Competition Act confers new competences upon the Bundeskartellamt
With the 9th Amendment to the German Competition Act, which was promulgated on 8 June 2017, the Bundeskartellamt has been given new competences in the area of consumer protection.
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt:
"We are glad that, in a first step, the legislator has granted us new investigative tools for consumer protection. In the digital economy, in particular, it only takes one illegal measure by a company to harm millions of consumers. This is why it makes sense to back up the already well-established system of privately enforced consumer protection. With the help of sector inquiries we will now start to make a tangible contribution towards better consumer protection and identify possible shortcomings. We will do this in close collaboration with the consumer protection organisations."
From now on the Bundeskartellamt can launch a sector inquiry where there is a reasonable suspicion that consumer law provisions have been severely violated, such as the Act against Unfair Competition (Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb (UWG)) or legal requirements for general terms and conditions. Sector inquiries are not targeted against individual companies, their purpose is to thoroughly examine the conditions on a specific market. In recent years, the Bundeskartellamt has identified competition restraints with the help of sector inquiries and developed solutions to the issues identified, for example in the petrol station, district heating, milk or submetering service markets.
In future, such inquiries can also be launched with a view to consumer protection if there is reason to suspect that significant, permanent or repeated infringements have occurred which affect a large number of consumers. In addition, the Bundeskartellamt can now act as amicus curiae in court proceedings relating to such infringements. To meet its new responsibilities, the Bundeskartellamt has set up a new decision division for consumer protection which will shortly commence its work.
The chair of the new decision division will be Professor Dr Carsten Becker who until now was in charge of the 8th Decision Division responsible for the energy and mineral oil sector.