On July 9, 2020, the Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) launched a sector inquiry on the provision and marketing of public charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.[1]  While the market is still in its early phase and emerging, the FCO received multiple complaints about prices and conditions at charging stations.

In an effort to rein in transport emissions and to promote the use of electric cars, the German government is rolling out a nationwide charging infrastructure to be in place by 2030.  The construction and operation of charging stations is not subject to the comprehensive regulation of power grids.  Given that the electric vehicle sector is characterized by vertical integration, the FCO considers non-discriminatory access to suitable locations for charging stations as well as the specific terms and conditions applying at these locations, of key importance to ensure effective competition and the successful expansion of e-mobility.

Accordingly, the FCO’s sector inquiry will not only look into prices at public charging stations but further examine how cities and municipalities provide access to suitable charging locations and how their approaches affect competition between charging station operators.  In addition, the FCO will look at the framework conditions for installing charging stations on motorways.  In a second phase, the FCO also plans to analyze the conditions that both e-mobility service providers as well as charging customers must abide by to access charging stations.  The FCO will publish its findings and conclusions in a report.  If the sector inquiry indicates anticompetitive practices, the FCO may also initiate separate proceedings against individual companies.

[1]               FCO Press Release, July 9, 2020, available in English here.