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PR(94)30: Surveillance Authority issues warning letters to several Austrian mineral oil companies

15.10.2002

The EFTA Surveillance Authority today issued warning letters to several Austrian mineral oil companies, which had notified the Authority of exclusive purchasing agreements with owners of filling stations. These "service station agreements" are long‑term exclusive purchasing agreements, meaning that the owners of filling stations are obliged to purchase motor‑vehicle fuels and other products from only one mineral oil company.

Such agreements are exempt from EEA and EC competition rules by means of a 11 group exemption% provided that they do not contain severe restrictions. The agreements notified, however, go far beyond the group exemption, as they contribute to a significant foreclosure of the Austrian market. Thus, they are not compatible with the EEA competition rules, and in that they are prohibited by Art. 53(1) of the EEA Agreement. As a consequence they are null and void, and cannot be enforced before national courts.

The companies concerned have been informed accordingly. Information has also been given on the procedures the competent surveillance authority would initiate if these agreements are not brought in line. In this case the immunity from fines, which a company obtains by notifying an agreement, may be withdrawn.

1 should like to draw attention to the possibility that other companies in Austria and in other EFTA States may also have similar agreements, which have not been notified to us", says Nic Grönvall, Member of the Authority responsible for competition matters. "In such cases the competent surveillance authority ‑ the EFTA Surveillance Authority or the European Commission ‑ may impose fines."

For further information please contact Christa Peutl (Competition Directorate) on tel. 22 66 863.




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