Practical Information on Antitrust Law
The Verein Deutscher Ingenieure e.V. (VDI ) [The Association of German Engineers] is committed, especially within the framework of its technical and scientific work, to consistent compliance with national and European antitrust law and works exclusively in accordance with these provisions.
VDI GmbH and its associated companies (VDI Group), also VDI Wissensforum GmbH, share this commitment.
The aim of this information is to enable you to identify and avoid in advance any possible questionable antitrust conduct within the framework of your activities in the VDI Wissensforum.
Anti-trust law in committee work
The committees of the VDI Wissensforum (programme committees, expert committees, etc.) also bring together experts from companies which compete or could compete with each other. Quite frequently experts from several levels of the economic process are represented. There is, therefore, in principle a risk that violations of the cartel prohibition occur (Section 1 GWB [German Restriction of Competition Act], Art. 101 TFEU). In particular, such violations can result in substantial fines and damages and cause lasting damage to the reputation of the VDI Wissensforum and the entire VDI Group. Please, therefore, always observe the points on the following pages:
Employees of companies in competition with each other are prohibited from engaging in discussions, exchanging information or entering into agreements, whether in writing, verbally or only informally, e.g. in the form of a gentlemen's agreement, on strategically relevant company-related topics. Even the only one-sided disclosure of strategically relevant company-related information is an antitrust violation. Please bear in mind that your listeners will be guided by such statements and could in future base their market conduct on them. Listeners as well are, therefore, also committing an antitrust violation.
Agreements, coordination, exchanges on or the unilateral disclosure of the following company-related information and topics in particular are not admissible:
- prices and price components, including margins, gross and net prices, price differences and strategies, terms and conditions of sale and payment terms, discounts;
- production volumes, inventories, sales, turnover, capacities and capacity utilisation;
- sharing of markets, projects, customers or sources of supply;
- manufacturing and selling costs, procurement costs and changes in production;
- relations with individual buyers or suppliers, especially where this could lead to them being driven out of the market;
- boycotts of (other) customers, competitors or suppliers;
- planned individual projects relating to specific technologies , investments, or marketing plans for specific products, especially where these are usually protected as business secrets.
By contrast, the following topics can be discussed within the framework of committee work without problem:
- general experience with certain technical solutions;
- information in the public domain e.g. economic data available on the internet;
- results of statistical evaluations or benchmarking, provided that at least five companies have contributed data and individual companies are not identifiable or antitrust clearance has been confirmed;
- legal frameworks and proposed legislation as well as possible consequences.
The test question is: “Does the discussion of an individual topic specifically serve to determine the state of the art (this is admissible) or is it a matter of discussing company-related, market-relevant information (this is inadmissible)?”
Please also observe the following points:
- Committees meet only on the basis of agenda items sent in advance.
- Agenda items and other documents do not contain any topics relevant under antitrust law.
- The discussion is limited to the agenda items.
- Committee meetings and their topics are transparent for third parties.
- Where spontaneous statements are made with content relevant under antitrust law, distance yourself actively from such conduct:
- Point out that this point may not be discussed.
- If necessary, postpone the discussion until antitrust clearance has been clarified.
- If the discussion is nevertheless continued, interrupt the meeting and record this.
- Keep minutes short and clear.
- Please also observe the cartel prohibition when communicating further (e.g. in emails).
Who can I contact?
The application of antitrust law in daily practice is not always easy.
Therefore, if you have any questions or doubts, please always contact the Head of Legal Advice of the VDI Group.
TÜV Technische Überwachung Hessen GmbH