Market transparency units
Market Transparency Unit for Electricity and Gas
The Act to Establish a Market Transparency Unit for Wholesale Electricity and Gas Trading of 12 December 2012 (Market Transparency Unit Act) requires the establishment of a market transparency unit for wholesale electricity and gas trading (MTU Electricity and Gas) at the Federal Network Agency. This was done by amending the Act against Restraints of Competition (GWB) and the Energy Industry Act (EnWG). The MTU Electricity and Gas is covered by the provisions laid out in the new Ninth Chapter of the Act against Restraints of Competition (Sections 47a - 47i and 47l) as well as Section 81. The MTU Electricity and Gas is also designated in the law as the national market surveillance authority under (Regulation on Wholesale Energy Market Integrity and Transparency) pursuant to Section 47b para. 2 of the Act against Restraints of Competition and Section 56 sentence 1 no. 4 of the Energy Industry Act.
The Federal Network Agency will perform the functions of the MTU Electricity and Gas by agreement with the Federal Cartel Office. This relationship will be defined in greater detail in a cooperation agreement concluded between the Federal Network Agency and the Federal Cartel Office and approved by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy. The ministry will also issue a regulation detailing the data collection by the MTU Electricity and Gas.
The MTU Electricity and Gas is tasked with continuously monitoring wholesale marketing and trading of electricity and natural gas. This includes observing power generation and power station dispatch. Its mission is to ensure that wholesale prices are set transparently and competitively. Centralised, ongoing market observation by a government agency is expected to improve efficiency, provide missing information for regulators, and inspire confidence in the integrity of the markets and in the ability of wholesale market competition to benefit consumers.
The MTU Electricity and Gas achieves its mission by constantly and extensively capturing, collecting and analysing all relevant data and information. It is integrated in the REMIT market surveillance regime, and so avoids the need for redundant reporting. Since the MTU Electricity and Gas captures interactions between financial and commodity markets, regulators can promptly investigate reports of legal violations and prosecute offences. Ongoing market surveillance helps to deter price manipulation as well.
Market Transparency Unit for Fuels
The , which is part of the Federal Cartel Office, continuously tracks fuel prices at filling stations, thus making it possible to identify potential violations of cartel law, such as "margin squeeze". Margin squeeze occurs when large oil companies sell fuel to consumers more cheaply than to small and mid-sized filling stations. The MTU Fuels shares its price data with private providers of consumer information services. This kind of open, transparent consumer information is essential for healthy competition and well-functioning markets. The Federal Government does not believe in imposing rules on pricing behaviour. It is better to put mature, responsible consumers in a stronger position than it is to regulate prices.
The Market Transparency Unit Act authorises the Economic Affairs Ministry to issue a regulation enabling the MTU Fuels to carry out its mission at the Federal Cartel Office. The regulation, which went into effect on 29 March 2013, lays out reporting obligations for public filling station operators: every change in retail fuel prices must be electronically reported to the MTU Fuels within five minutes. The information can be downloaded by providers of consumer information services who have been duly authorised by the MTU Fuels as long as they consistently publish the latest prices on a nationwide information service. The providers of consumer information services must appoint an ombudsman to whom consumers can report inaccurate information.
Since 31 August 2013, companies who operate or set the prices at public filling stations have had to report all price changes to the MTU Fuels. The unit started day-to-day operations on 1 December 2013 after a three-month test run. A report published on 10 August 2018 confirms the positive impact of the market transparency unit: in addition to delivering higher transparency on fuel prices, the MTU Fuels is no longer registering any significant price hikes in holiday periods.