Two key amendments to the German competition law entered into effect on May 29, 2020, temporarily extending merger control review periods and temporarily suspending interest payments for antitrust fines, further to a bill adopted by the German Parliament to mitigate the consequences of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on trade.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the strict lockdown measures imposed in many jurisdictions, the Act anticipates that the Federal Cartel Office (FCO) may face challenges in obtaining relevant information from market participants when assessing notified transactions.
Against this background, the Act established a one-time extension of the FCO’s review periods for transactions notified to the FCO between March 1 and March 31, 2020:
These extended review periods shall also apply in the event that the European Commission refers a notified transaction to the FCO between March 1 and March 31, 2020. However, there will be no extension if, on the Act’s date of effectiveness,
The Act provides for a suspension of the statutory obligation to pay interest on antitrust fines for which payment relief (payment deadline or installment payment) has been or will be granted by the FCO. In other words, a company that was fined under the German competition law can apply for such payment relief if it demonstrates to the FCO that it cannot reasonably be expected to pay the respective fine immediately due to its economic circumstances.
In this respect, the Act acknowledges that the financial situation of companies may deteriorate in the short term as a result of the economic consequences associated with the COVID-19 pandemic to such an extent that a payment relief is required. The suspension shall apply until June 30, 2021.
For an up-to-date tracker of COVID-19’s impact on merger review deadlines and procedures in jurisdictions around the world, please refer to our global tracker.
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 Gesetz zur Abmilderung der Folgen der COVID-19-Pandemie im Wettbewerbsrecht und für den Bereich der Selbstverwaltungsorganisation der gewerblichen Wirtschaft, Bundesgesetzblatt 2020 I, p. 1067 (the Act).