On 12 October 2017, the Senate of the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf announced the imposition of fines amounting up to more than 19 million EUR on the “Wallpaper-Cartel”. With this decision the Court increased the fines on the companies involved, in comparison to the prior fine of the Federal Cartel Office in 2013 and 2014. The high amount of the fine was due to the fact that the Senate had considered the worldwide volume of sales to determine the amount of fines and not only the sales affected by the price agreements.
The Senate acknowledged two cases of forbidden price fixing agreements between two European companies in the wallpaper business and also held five more persons accountable by imposing fines amounting up to 650,000 EUR.
In 2005, the two companies agreed during board meetings on a price increase in the range of 5% to 6% for wallpapers on the German market for the year 2006. One company played a prominent role as market leader. The managing director of one company supported the implementation of this price agreement by providing sensitive information and passing the impending announcement of the agreement to all member companies. With the help of this agreement, the companies aimed to control the market price for wallpapers in Germany which usually would evolve freely.
In addition, another price increase of approximately 5 % in January 2008 was arranged on the basis of an illegal anti-competitive agreement.
The fines were determined after weighing up the gravity and the duration of the antitrust violation. In this case the Senate of the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf went beyond the fines imposed by the Federal Cartel Office. The objection of the two wallpaper manufacturers against the previous decision of the Federal Cartel Office remained unsuccessful.