Economy & Politics

Exclusive Suppliers of protective masks are suing the Spahn Ministry

Health Minister Jens Spahn ordered several hundred million protective masks at the height of the corona crisis – from today’s perspective at inflated pricesimago images / photo library

In the dispute over unpaid supplies of protective masks, several companies are taking legal action against the Federal Ministry of Health. As the responsible district court in Bonn confirmed on capital request, there are around 20 lawsuits from companies waiting for their money. The majority of it has already been delivered to the Ministry, according to a court spokesman. This now has the opportunity to make a counter statement. The value in dispute of most lawsuits, which tend to be based on small and medium-sized suppliers, is between EUR 500,000 and EUR 1 million. In one case it is about 2.5 million euros.

Upon request, the Ministry of Health confirmed that some lawsuits have been served. In terms of content, it did not want to comment on the allegations. The ministry said that it would comment on the judicial process.

Health Minister Jens Spahn (CDU) ordered protective masks for more than 1 billion euros at the height of the corona crisis in early April using a so-called open house procedure. In this accelerated procurement process with the help of the General Customs Directorate, 738 surcharges were awarded to suppliers. These were guaranteed fixed purchase prices for a fixed transaction: EUR 4.50 net per mask of protection class FFP2. In total, Spahn’s ministry ordered more than 200 million FFP2 masks and more than 60 million simpler surgical masks using this procedure. The contractual partners were suppliers from a wide variety of backgrounds – from pharmacists who still had masks to import companies with good contacts to manufacturers in China to Turkish car dealers. Anyone who agreed to deliver at least 25,000 masks on a fixed date was entitled to a contract.

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However, there was chaos in the process. The ministry found that the quality of some deliveries was not right. There were also problems with the delivery via a commissioned logistics service provider. Therefore, the federal government commissioned the TÜV to check the deliveries to prevent money from flowing for useless masks. In addition, the Ministry of Health brought in the EY testing company to manage the controls, returns and payments of the orders.

It also became clear that the price of EUR 4.50 per FFP2 mask promised as part of the open house process was far too high from today’s perspective. The market has eased noticeably since the global rush for protective equipment at the beginning of the Corona crisis in spring. In the meantime, FFP2 masks can be procured cheaply in China – also because the Chinese government has decreed that the manufacturers there must produce according to the European protection standard. In the free port of Shanghai, for example, an FFP2 protective mask currently costs less than one euro.

Access to test reports denied

According to the Ministry of Health, bills in the hundreds of millions were still open in June. Some suppliers therefore suspect that the federal government only partly promotes the quality defects in the masks because it does not want to fulfill the contracts that are disadvantageous for it. The mistrust of these companies was also aroused by the fact that they were refused access to the TÜV test reports and no contact persons or contact details for questions or objections were given in letters. “The federal government apparently speculates that some suppliers cannot bear the litigation risk,” says one company. Some suppliers had already “mortgaged” the house and yard for the purchase of the masks, they were no longer able to finance the advance for a lawsuit.

However, according to information from Personal-Financial.com, there has been some movement recently. For example, some companies that are still waiting for their money have recently received positive news from EY: After reviewing the TÜV reports, the federal government did not want to withdraw from the existing contract, at least in part of its delivery. In individual cases, complaints before the district court in Bonn have therefore recently been withdrawn. For this, the companies now not only receive the promised purchase price for the masks, but also default interest: With a statutory interest rate of currently more than eight percent, this is not a bad deal for the suppliers – especially since the federal government also pays the legal costs of its contractual partners. For Minister of Health Spahn, however, the procurement of the masks is a bit more expensive.


The article appears in Personal-Financial.com 8/2020. interested in Personal-Financial.com? Click here for the Subscription shopwhere you can order the print edition. Our digital edition is available at iTunes and GooglePlay


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