Austria fines seven companies in construction cartel
The AFCA suspects these companies of having been part of an Austria-wide cartel in the construction sector. The alleged anti-competitive arrangement covers several thousand tenders, with most of the individual contract volumes ranging from EUR 50 000 to EUR 60 million.
The cartel extended to the whole of Austria. The companies concerned are not cooperating under the leniency programme.
The alleged cartel existed between at least 2002 and 2017. More than 40 construction companies are suspected of having taken part in the cartel.
The AFCA accuses the members of the cartel of having lessened or precluded competition in the construction sector in order to help each other obtain contracts, to reduce uncertainties relating to their future business conduct and thereby to secure or increase their market shares and margins.
To this end, the construction companies fixed prices between 2002 and 2017, divided up customers and markets, and exchanged competitively sensitive information. The arrangements were made between two construction companies as well as in larger groups. The cartel members met regularly and also kept in touch by e-mail and telephone.
Specifically, the economic sector concerned includes the planning and execution of building construction and civil engineering projects.
Potentially damaged parties of the alleged construction cartel are in particular federal, provincial and local governments, as well as public and private companies. These parties may bring actions for damages before the civil courts. A cartel among competitors is assumed by law to cause damage.
According to the Cartel Act, Cartel Court decisions are proof of competition law having been broken. A fine imposed by the Cartel Court will not be offset against damages. The damages payable can only be precisely assessed after a final decision from the court. Damages are not determined in proceedings before the Cartel Court; the damaged parties must claim damages in a separate legal action. ■