Despite the lower fuel taxes, the prices at the petrol pumps are not falling. The competition guardians should receive sharper weapons. Chancellor Scholz sees an effect of the tank discount.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz sees a partial effect of the controversial tank discount.
A government spokesman said on Monday in Berlin that the chancellor’s assessment was that the tank discount had a partial effect. It’s not that the tax cut didn’t do anything. It can be assumed that the prices at the gas stations would be significantly higher if the tax reduction did not exist. There are no considerations to change or cancel the tank discount.
However, the federal government will take a very close look to see whether anyone is taking advantage of this situation and making profits that are not justified, the spokesman said. The Chancellery will take a close look at the proposals from the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Habeck wants to sharpen antitrust law quickly
Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck wants to present proposals for stricter antitrust law “as quickly as possible” in view of persistently high fuel prices. “We’re doing antitrust law with claws and teeth,” said Habeck on Monday. He cannot and will not take the idea of taxing excess profits off the table because he thinks it is right, said the Greens politician on Deutschlandfunk. With a view to the resistance of the FDP, Habeck said, however, that the taxation of excess profits does not seem to be able to win a majority in the traffic light coalition. So now antitrust law will be used.
Federal Minister of Finance Christian Lindner considers the “tank discount” to be correct, despite all the doubts. The fuel prices would be “significantly higher” without the tax rebate, said the FDP politician on Sunday evening on ARD and ZDF. With a view to Habeck’s push for stricter antitrust law, Lindner said “the direction is right”.
Tax relief as of June 1st
On June 1st, the energy tax on petrol and diesel was reduced to relieve motorists. But this was hardly noticeable at the pumps. On Sunday, a liter of Super E10 cost 1.952 euros and diesel 2.033 euros on average nationwide, as the ADAC announced. On Friday, according to ADAC, Super had cost 1.945 euros and Diesel 2.016 euros. The fuel price has clearly decoupled from the price of crude oil: “The tax cut ends up for the most part with the mineral oil companies and doesn’t get enough with the drivers,” said an ADAC spokesman. Super E10 is 20 cents cheaper than on May 31, the day before the tax cut. The price of diesel, however, is at the level of May 11 and only one cent below the level of May 31.
In the ZDF program “Berlin direkt” and in the ARD “Tagesthemen”, Lindner defended himself against the impression that the tank discount was a non-starter. He pointed to higher world market prices, the strong dollar and shortages at refineries as factors in price formation. “I have the impression that the debate is a bit emotionally charged,” he said on ZDF.
SPD leader Lars Klingbeil told the “Rheinische Post” (Monday): “The tank discount is for commuters, not for the oil multinationals.” Green party leader Ricarda Lang admitted in the ARD “Report from Berlin” that the discount actually does not relieve the people, but the oil companies. Nevertheless, her party is sticking to the tax reduction. “We stand by the compromises that we agreed together in the traffic light coalition.” But one thing is clear: “We have no interest in watching the oil companies make big profits.” The debate about other instruments such as an excess profit tax is not yet over.
More intervention options for the cartel office
According to Habeck’s plans, the Cartel Office should be given more options to intervene in order to be able to take tougher action against mineral oil companies. In addition to more powerful sector inquiries, competition watchdogs should also be able to siphon off profits if companies abuse their market power. As a last resort, demergers should be possible in the case of dominant positions.
According to Habeck, profits can theoretically already be skimmed off under current antitrust law. But this is difficult to apply because it has to be proven that there is a cartel. In order to facilitate this proof – “ie this bequeathed market” that works like a cartel, antitrust law must be reformed. There have already been demergers in Germany, said Habeck. “Politics is not as defenseless as one sometimes thinks.”
FDP parliamentary group leader Christian Dürr told the editorial network Germany (Monday): “Proposals that are constitutional and do not harm Germany as an investment location are welcome.” In the ZDF morning magazine, Dürr said that, above all, they were away from the debate about an excess profit tax, which would affect completely different, innovative companies and damage Germany as a business location. Antitrust law is the right instrument, said Dürr. “And I’m confident that we’ll come to a solution.”
The Union was skeptical about Habeck’s move. Group Vice President Thorsten Frei emphasized in the “Rheinische Post” (Monday) that the tank discount should not be misused to maximize profits. However, the cartel office already has options to intervene. The President of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Marcel Fratzscher, called Habeck’s proposal an “important initiative”. The problem with the mineral oil companies is not that they make profits per se, “but that they abuse their market power at the expense of consumers,” he told the “Augsburger Allgemeine”.