German Cartel Office Investigates Gas and Electricity Companies

The German Cartel Office has started a large-scale investigation of utilities with respect to the use of contract clauses prohibiting the resale of energy.

Among the investigated companies is Wingas GmbH, Germany’s second largest gas importer, writes Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Investigations against three other (unnamed) companies are also being conducted, two more are in preparation.

According to Dow Jones Deutschland, spokespersons for E.ON Ruhrgas and VNG Verbundnetz Gas AG, the largest respectively the third-largest German gas importers, said their companies were not investigated by the German Cartel Office.

The Cartel Office demands that the companies immediately stop using clauses that prohibit the resale if the buyer is also bound by a take-or-pay clause and has to buy energy that exceeds his current demand. While the Cartel Office initially focused its attention on gas suppliers, it confirmed that it’s also investigating electricity companies, says Frankfurter Allgemeine. Reportedly, at present companies do not need to fear fines. The Cartel Office is apparently in negotiations with the companies concerned about their waiving the clause. The negotiations were “constructive” the office told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Contrary to the investigations with respect to the resale clauses, the Cartel Office put investigations against the operators of the German long-distance gas pipelines on hold. The office had found in a comprehensive sector study that long-distance gas pipeline operators obstruct competition by concluding long-term contracts with subsidiaries or affiliated companies, thereby reserving important entry points for group companies. Yet the office wants to wait for a draft bill amending the Gas Grid Access Ordinance, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung says.

Source: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 19 February 2010, page 14, Dow Jones Deutschland

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