The German economy is criticizing the government’s plans to tighten antitrust laws. The measures against the high petrol and energy costs could damage Germany as a business location in the long term.
The plans of Federal Economics Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) to tighten antitrust law have met with sharp criticism in parts of the economy. “We consider the introduction of abuse-independent unbundling options and antitrust profit skimming claims without proof of fault to be a mistake,” said Stefan Genth, general manager of the trade association HDE. “Such a blank check for the Federal Cartel Office would favor arbitrary and politically motivated decisions,” the sales representative continued. He recommends “urgently” not to pursue the project any further.
The trade is also affected by high petrol and energy costs and can understand the anger, said Genth. However, the Economics Minister’s plans would have negative consequences for competition, consumers and Germany as a business location. “Companies’ activities in competition are aimed precisely at gaining a strong position in the market. If a market power that has been achieved by one’s own efforts and has not been abused is generally suspected by the legislator per se, this can dampen the commitment of companies on the market from the outset,” Genth explained. “The sword of Damocles of breaking up will also deter international investors and thus damage Germany as a business location.”
The introduction of an abuse-independent possibility for profit skimming also appears to be “extremely risky”, Genth continues. “Also because the skimming of legally generated income would be possible, the serious question then arises as to whether such a legal measure would be constitutional at all,” he warned. “As a result, it would result in encroachments on the constitutionally protected property and on the substance of the company’s economic business operations being possible on suspicion.”
Habeck announced at the weekend that he wanted to give the Cartel Office more options to intervene, thus reacting to the debate about high fuel prices and possible price gouging by the mineral oil industry. According to his will, the competition watchdogs should be given additional investigative powers, skimmed off profits from the abuse of market power and, as a last resort, should be able to break up corporations in order to ensure more competition.