Richtungsweisendes Urteil im Fall Peugeot Austria

Dr. Georg Huber, LL.M.

Laut der Entscheidung des österreichischen Obersten Gerichtshofes vom 22.03.2021 hat Peugeot Austria (PSA) seine Marktmacht gegenüber einem seiner Händler missbraucht und damit gegen österreichisches und europäisches Wettbewerbsrecht verstoßen. Näheres zum Urteil und warum dieses auch europaweit für die Automobilbranche von großer Bedeutung ist, führt unser Partner Georg Huber in seinem Beitrag und „National Report“ für das britische Magazin „European Competition Law Review“ ((2021) 42 E.C.L.R., Issue 7) weiter aus:

Austrian Supreme Court: Peugeot Austria abused its market power against its independent dealers

The Austrian Supreme Court, in its capacity as the Supreme Cartel Court, ruled in its Decision of 22 March 2021 that Peugeot Austria (PSA), the general importer for Peugeot vehicles in Austria, had abused its market power vis-à-vis its dealer “Büchl”, in violation of Austrian and European competition law. (1) The Supreme Court upheld most of the findings of the Cartel Court’s earlier decision of 12 May 2020.

The Supreme Court’s decision has drawn a lot of attention throughout Europe, since the court banned commonly used conditions manufacturers impose on their dealers and stressed that its decision applies to all contractual relationships with similar economically dependent undertakings.

The background was a long struggle between PSA and its independent car dealers who claimed to suffer from unfair, non-transparent and suffocating conditions imposed on them by PSA.

The Supreme Court ruled that PSA had a dominant market position towards its dealers with respect to the sale of new cars as well as the repair and service of cars, since the dealers depended economically on PSA.

Given this dominant market position, it was held that PSA had infringed competition law by:

• tying the dealers’ entitlement to premium payments to customer satisfaction surveys;
• making the dealers’ margins dependent on excessive sales targets;
• competing with its dealers on the end customer market through PSA’s vertically integrated daughter company applying abusively low selling prices, while at the same time any losses incurred by the daughter company were borne by PSA;
• implementing an elaborate control system under which dealers had to carry out guarantee and warranty work despite economically unviable and unprofitable conditions for the dealer, at hourly rates, and with refunds for spare parts not covering the costs; and
• passing on the costs of mystery shopping, mystery leads and standard criteria audits to the dealers.

On the other hand, the Supreme Court found that the following did not constitute infringements of competition law:

• PSA’s demand for corporate identity investments at the expense of the dealers;
• the practice of charging high prices for testing and diagnostic equipment necessary to perform warranty and guarantee work, and imposing an annual fee for access to technical documentation;
• exerting economic pressure to process as few warranty cases as possible;
• the general demand for prices or for other business conditions differing from those that would most likely result from effective competition; and
• charging a high training fee in new car sales and in the repair shop sector.

[…]

(1) OGH 17 February 2021, 16Ok4/20d.

Zum vollständigen Beitrag in der englischen Originalversion:
Austrian Supreme Court: Peugeot Austria abused its market power against its independent dealers

Fotonachweis: © Christian Forcher