On September 12, 2019, the FCO closed administrative proceedings against two joint purchasing organizations for furniture, VME Union GmbH and KHG GmbH & Co. KG, after the organizations had abandoned their plans to enter into an alliance.
Under EU and German antitrust law, there is no absolute threshold above which it can be presumed that the parties to a joint purchasing arrangement have market power so that the joint purchasing arrangement is likely to give rise to restrictive effects on competition. However, in the European Commission’s and FCO’s view, in most cases it is deemed unlikely that market power exists if the parties to the joint purchasing arrangement have a combined market share not exceeding 15% on the purchasing market(s) and on the selling market(s).
During its investigation, the FCO found that the two joint purchasing organizations would have likely enjoyed combined market shares in excess of 15% on both markets. It further considered that, since the affiliated furniture stores handle the majority of their purchases through their respective joint purchasing organizations, such an alliance would have led to a high degree of commonality of costs and therefore to restrictions in price and assortment competition.