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On 23 November 2022, the Federal Cartel Office (FCO) declared that – for the time being – it does not object to the distribution of Meta VR headsets in Germany. The reason is that Meta has voluntarily refrained from linking its VR headsets to Facebook accounts. This case showcases the first application of Sec. 19a of the Act against Restraints of Competition (ARC) with the effect that a Big Tech company changed its business conduct. In the meantime, further cases are pending before the FCO with the outcome eagerly awaited.

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In its May 17, 2022 ruling, the German Federal Fiscal Court (Bundesfinanzhof, BFH) confirmed that it is irrelevant to determine the customs value for imported goods if the transaction value is adjusted subsequently (Case No. VII R 2/19). The ruling marks the end of the Hamamatsu case, in which the European Court of Justice (ECJ) already had taken a position (Judgment of 20 December 2017, C-529/16). The core of the proceedings hinges on whether transfer pricing adjustments in cross-border transactions between affiliated companies are to be taken into account retrospectively when determining the customs value.

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On the 26th of October, the German Federal Government published the draft text of the Second Sanctions Enforcement Act (Sanktionsdurchsetzungsgesetz II – SDG II), which is set to pass by the end of this year. The proposal is the second part of the previously planned two-part legislative package and builds on the First Sanctions Enforcement Act (Sanktionsdurchsetzungsgesetz I – SanktDG I), which came into force in the end of May earlier this year.

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On 1 January 2023, the “Act on Corporate Due Diligence Obligations in Supply Chains” (the “Act”) will enter into force for companies with more than 3000 employees in Germany. In order to specify the obligations under the Act, the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control (“BAFA”) published several guidance documents, most recently one on the complaints procedure (in German) under Sec. 8 and 9 of the Act. In this briefing, we summarize the main specifications and recommendations provided in the guidance document.

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As of January 1, 2023, companies that fall under the scope of the German Supply Chain Due Diligence Act (LkSG) will be subject to a reporting obligation. To facilitate the timely and complete implementation of this obligation, BAFA has now published a catalogue of questions that provides a detailed insight into the structure and content of the reporting expected by the authorities. In the following, we briefly outline the most important components and added values of this questionnaire.

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On the night after Halloween, the long-awaited Digital Market Act (DMA) has entered into force. Should companies be frightened or euphoric about the new EU rules for digital gatekeepers? Although field testing is still some months away – the DMA will only start applying after a further six months, on 2 May 2023 – affected companies are well advised to already familiarize themselves with the mechanics of the DMA. Our briefing outlines how the DMA will work.

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In the 2022 State of the Union the President of the European Commission, President von der Leyen, stressed the economic importance and high supply risk of critical raw materials (CRMs), such as lithium, magnesium, rare earths, and others. In this context, she announced the implementation of the CRM Act, of which the feedback and public consultation period is currently ongoing until 25 November 2022. The topic of CRMs and the EU’s dependency on non-member states for supply is not novel but gained traction in light of the invasion of Ukraine by Russia and the EU’s reliance on Russian gas and oil. At the same time, China is by far the biggest supplier of CRMs to the EU, and China had used its supply of CRMs as a geopolitical response. In possible future conflicts with China, it can be assumed that China will again use CRM supply geopolitically. The CRM Act is the latest example of the EU’s intention to push towards a digital and sustainable future, the “Twin Transition”, as well as strengthen EU resilience and security. It exemplifies the EU institutions’ unanimous effort to reduce strategic dependencies to ensure the “Twin Transition” of the EU economy.

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Since the Russian invasion began in February 2022, the EU has repeatedly expanded its key legal instrument when it comes to trade and sector-specific sanctions against Russia: Regulation (EU) No 833/2014 (Regulation). Among the various restrictions, several provisions of the Regulation sanction the flow of goods from Russia, prohibiting not only the import but also the purchase and transfer of a wide variety of goods. In its extensive FAQs, the EU Commission has attempted to explain these bans in more detail. As helpful as these interpretations are in principle, however, they have created considerable uncertainty relating to the scope of these prohibitions.

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On 6 October 2022, the European Union introduced a new, eighth wave of economic and individual sanction measures against Russia. The package is a response to Russia’s latest escalation of the war against Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions. In this briefing, we highlight the most important changes in this package: the expansion of export and import restrictions, the prohibition of certain services to Russian companies, the introduction of a price cap related to the maritime transport of Russian oil, the listing of additional individuals and entities, and the extension of pre-existing sanctions to the newly annexed regions of Ukraine. At the same time, several trade-related restrictions have been amended to avoid threats to nuclear safety and security, allowing for the authorization of exports, imports, or services in relation to civil nuclear capabilities and cooperation.

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On 15 September 2022, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on the question whether competing tenders submitted by group companies may be excluded from public procurement procedures even absent a violation of Article 101 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) due to the “group privilege” (Case C-416/21).

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