The gas and energy sector has been under close scrutiny by the German Federal Competition Office ("BKartA") and the German government. It could only be a matter of time before other member states' authorities follow suit.
At the beginning of this week, the German minister of economics, Rainer Brüderle, asked the BKartA to establish a market monitoring body (Markttransparenzstelle) for the energy and gas sector, whose job it is to oversee pricing mechanisms in this sector. The BKartA has welcomed such a move, wanting to shed light on the pricing mechanisms used by large energy and gas companies, which have been criticised by consumer protection groups for not being sufficiently transparent. Rainer Brüderle has also criticised this lack of transparency in a speech in early June. The vice-president of the BKartA, Peter Klocker, this week welcomed the move of establishing the market monitoring body, which in his view provides a welcome additional tool to the BKartA in tracking abuses of dominant positions in this area, and which brings a significant improvement to the BKartA's enforcement possibilities. According to Peter Klocker, such transparency on the markets enables the BKartA to detect abuses early and allows the BKartA to react quickly.
The market monitoring body for the energy and gas sector had already been proposed by the German monopoly commission in a special report, published July 2009, and was included in the new German government's coalition manifesto, published in October 2009. It therefore comes as no surprise that Rainer Brüderle is now proposing that the BKartA establishes a market monitoring body for the sector.
Additionally, the BKartA's energy sector enquiry is ongoing (start date April 2009). A final report is expected in the autumn of this year. Any findings by the BKartA could lead to proceedings for infringements of competition law being brought against undertakings in the energy sector. In the course of the enquiry, the BKartA investigated the wholesale pricing mechanisms of 60 energy suppliers, including, amongst others, large energy providers such as E.ON, RWE, EnBW and Vattenfall. Given that different member states' energy authorities are in constant contact and often take their cue from findings elsewhere, it is quite likely that similar investigations will be undertaken elsewhere in the near future.
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