Germany’s Federal Cartel Office Ruling that Deutsche Bahn’s Actions are Anti-Competitive Signals Major Rail Reform Will Come in Europe
Copyright: Bundeskartellamt
  • The EU Commission must act now to ensure this decision and behaviour change become standard practice across all EU markets
  • ALLRAIL calls for the ruling to be immediately applied to all rail operators across Europe who use monopolistic behaviour
  • Access to real-time data, open use of all relevant marketing techniques and keywords, and fair and non-discriminatory commercial terms for ticket vendors by dominant operators must become a European rail framework
  • European consumers are one step closer to technology that creates a door-to-door travel possibility

Yesterday, the Bundeskartellamt, the German Federal Cartel Office, ruled that certain practices and contractual clauses imposed by state-owned rail incumbent Deutsche Bahn are unlawful and constitute an abuse of market power. This is a win, not just for German rail passengers, but for Europe more broadly and for the better development of sustainable travel on the Continent.

As of today, Deutsche Bahn is required by law to allow ticket vendors and mobility platforms access to real-time data, to use previously-banned marketing keywords, to apply discounts, and to cooperate on fair and non-discriminatory commercial terms.

This decision should act as a clear sign to all other rail operators who are abusing their market dominant positions towards, or insisting on unfair terms for, non-in-house ticket vendors that their behaviour must be rectified immediately, or they will face the consequences. The EU and Member States need to finally break cartels such as DB in order to enable more competition, digitalisation and innovation for consumers, and a real chance to reduce the high carbon emissions from transport.

Mobility platforms offer innovative digital solutions that put customers at the forefront and enable the shift from high-carbon modes of transport, by empowering consumers with impartial information that is easy to digest in a digital format. These platforms are essential for the European Union, as they provide a seamless way to plan, compare and book travel both nationally and cross-border – forming the backbone of long-distance journeys – which will rival the attractiveness of both the private car and domestic/short-haul flights.

This long-awaited final ruling from Germany, the EU’s largest member state, shows that states will no longer allow abusive, monopolistic behaviours from state-owned entities. It is sad to see that Deutsche Bahn has used its taxpayer-funded resources to try to fight this case and to fight against open market competition and the undoubted benefits that it brings.

“The implications of today’s ruling are huge. Anti-competitive behaviour is not allowed, and Europe must act on this momentum to distribute the power away from dominant rail incumbents – like DB – in order to ensure it is shared by smaller existing companies and future start-ups who want a fair chance when entering the market. While we’re very happy with the ruling from Germany, to achieve viable modal shift, we still demand fast decision-making and rollout of similar competition-friendly policies both at EU and at national level”.

ALLRAIL Secretary General Nick Brooks