“Friends forever? Joint and several liability for cartel damages”
“Good friends can never be separated; good friends are never alone; for there’s one thing in life they know how to do, be there for one another…” This timeless classic was sung by Franz Beckenbauer on the occasion of the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England. And he is right: friends show consideration for each other and they are sincere to one another. As delightful as these virtues are for interpersonal relationships; as troublesome they are for intercorporate ones. If companies are too friendly with one another, they may breach antitrust law. Yet, what about friendship, when the cartel is over and third parties are eager to claim their cartel damages?
So it has begun. However, when will the new provisions of the 9th amendment of the GWB actually apply? Aside from a number of exceptions, the 9th amendment will come into force on the day following its promulgation. But, a number of not insignificant provisions will have retroactive effect. This sounds as if it could be exciting.
The legislature has determined a time of entry into force for the 9th amendment of the GWB pursuant to Article 82(2)(1) of the German Fundamental Law. According to that provision, certain provisions regarding cartel damages claims entered into force already as of 27 December 2016 (Article 8 S. 1 of the amendment). The other provisions entered into force on the day following the promulgation, i.e. on 9 June 2017. Beyond that, there are a number of questions as to when certain provisions will apply and whether transitional rules will apply in some cases. The present contribution offers a short overview in this regard.
Provisions on consumer protection account for only a small part of the 9th amendment of the German Act Against Restraints of Competition (ARC), which recently came into force. However, the introduction of the reform has led to a highly controversial debate in the press and literature.
Consumer protection in Germany
Traditionally, private enforcement is the main means of protecting consumer rights in Germany. This involves consumers or, more probably, recognised consumer protection associations bringing private law actions to ensure that consumer protection provisions are applied. Unfair competition law plays a central role here. For example, consumer organisations issue cease and desist letters in response to breaches of general terms and conditions of business. If unsuccessful, they then take legal action.
Unlike previously, the debate about the 9th amendment of the ARC focused on strengthening public enforcement. Not that public enforcement of consumer protection law is completely unknown in Germany: the German Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht – BaFin) and the German Federal Network Agency (Bundesnetzagentur – BNetzA) already have powers to enforce consumer rights. BaFin is responsible for the protection of all consumers in the area of financial services, while the BNetzA monitors the misuse of phone numbers. As a result of the 9th amendment of the ARC, the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) now also has powers to protect consumers.