On 25 February 2014, the German Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) imposed fines totaling around €17m on four manufacturers of wallpaper, their representatives and the Association of German Wallpaper Manufacturers (VDT) for entering agreements that fixed prices.
Between 2005 and 2008, German wallpaper manufacturers had used the VDT association meetings for fixing prices to the detriment of their customers. The Bundeskartellamt acknowledged the important role of trade association in the German economic system, but highlighted that they must not be abused to actively support anti-competitive agreements between manufacturers. The Bundeskartellamt also imposed a fine on the trade association itself.
The parties are at liberty to appeal the size of the fines.
The case acts as a salient reminder that trade associations and industry conventions can become hotbeds for anti-competitive agreements between rivals. The case shows that European regulators will take such infringements of the law seriously. Infringers can feel immune from prosecution due to the undocumented and secretive nature of such activity but it only takes one individual from one company to whistle blow to the authorities and provide prosecutors with a strong case for fines.