Following a Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) decision that its rebate system violated the Trade Act, retail chain Spar went all the way to the Supreme Court. All judicial forums upheld the HCA's decision and the illegality of such rebates seemed to be settled. However, the Budapest Metropolitan Court recently overturned another HCA decision, which was somewhat surprising considering that the Supreme Court had already upheld the HCA's decision in the relatively similar Spar.
E-Control recently published a draft of the amendment of the Gas Market Model Ordinance 2017. The envisaged amendment – and especially the newly implemented capacity conversion service – resolves the capacity mismatch issue by compensating network users for the economic disadvantages that arise from having to buy double capacity due to the bundling regime at interconnection points.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently adopted an opinion on the draft act for the amendment of the Administrative Procedure Code. The CPC supports the introduction of electronic justice which, in its view, will increase the efficiency of the judiciary system and prevent unnecessary delays. However, it disagrees with the increase in state fees and the proposal that the state fee for cassation is to be defined as a percentage of the imposed penalty.
After four months of negotiations, the Austrian National Council has finally reached an agreement on the amendment of the Green Electricity Act. The required two-thirds majority was reached by a last-minute agreement between the coalition parties and the Green Party. The aim of the new legislation is to increase the percentage of green electricity and expand renewable energy in Austria.
The Constitutional Court recently reached a landmark decision and overturned the Federal Administrative Court decision which had rejected the permit for a third runway at Vienna International Airport on the grounds of climate protection and land use. This decision is significant in that it has far-reaching consequences for many other projects beyond the scope of the third runway. It is also relevant to Austria as a business hub.
Following an Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators decision which foresees a split of the Austrian-German electricity market, the Austrian National Regulatory Authority, E-Control and the Austrian transmission system operators have announced that they plan to exhaust all legal possibilities in order to appeal the decision.
Public procurements are often targets for bid rigging and the Hungarian authorities and legislature have made extra efforts to fight this kind of behaviour. While it is not the primary authority for monitoring public procurements, the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) is one authority fighting anti-competitive behaviour in public procurement. Besides investigating violations, the HCA is also taking steps towards prevention and raising awareness.
Although the Labour Code fails to define a 'conflict of interest', its general principles prohibit employees from engaging in conduct which could jeopardise their employer's rightful economic interests. Depending on the circumstances, a conflict may constitute a severe violation of the employee's employment terms and can be punished appropriately. In other cases, a conflict may arise that is not the employee's fault, which can therefore be appropriately rectified without penalties.
Parliament recently adopted the Act on Private Enforcement of Competition Law, which transposes the EU Antitrust Damages Directive into Polish law. The act aims to enhance the enforcement of the payment of compensation by companies that have infringed competition rules. The introduction of legal presumptions shifting the burden of proof onto the infringer and specific rules on the disclosure of evidence are steps in this direction.
Approximately one year before the General Data Protection Regulation will come fully into force, the Austrian legislature has officially started a six-week consultation process for the national Data Protection Amendment Act 2018. If and to what extent the legislature will make use of the competencies provided for by the 'opening clauses' in the General Data Protection Regulation is highly relevant to companies, and the amendment act has answered this question.
For the second time in less than five years the Commission for the Protection of Competition has opened investigation proceedings regarding prohibited agreements and concerted practices against the major fuel companies in Bulgaria and closed them without issuing penalties. An investigation was launched and the commission found that the retail price of some petrol companies in Bulgaria does not always follow the wholesale price and producers' prices.
An important part of the recent major amendment to the Competition Act was the timely implementation of the EU Antitrust Damages Directive into Hungarian law. While it was already possible to claim damages for a competition law infringement under Hungarian law, the directive's implementation introduced special rules for damages claims arising out of competition law infringement and the enforcement of such claims. It also introduced several solutions which are new to Hungarian law.
The Federal Administrative Court recently hindered the plans for a third runway to be built at Vienna Airport, explaining that the positive aspects of the project could not justify the extra carbon dioxide pollution. The decision was reached despite the court conceding to the fact that air traffic will increase in the future and thus a third runway is necessary. This may be the first time that any court worldwide has rejected a project due to climate protection.
The existing Labour Code amended employers' consultation duties in the event of a collective redundancy. When the code entered into force, this change seemed technical and went somewhat unnoticed among other more significant changes. However, the change is important, as it simplifies employers' consultation duties in the absence of employee representative bodies. Simultaneously, the new rule's compliance with EU law has raised questions around how employers should act.
Recent amendments to the Competition Act have significantly revised the merger control threshold system. The turnover thresholds for triggering a filing obligation have been increased. In addition, a voluntary threshold has been introduced, effectively transposing the voluntary notification system into Hungarian competition law for transactions where the mandatory thresholds are not met, but the parties have achieved a combined turnover in Hungary of more than Ft5 billion.
Almost one year after the two-year transition period of the EU directives on public procurement law expired, Austria published a consultation draft of the new Federal Procurement Act 2017 to implement the directives. While Austria took a somewhat conservative approach when implementing the directives, there are some areas where the Austrian draft for the transposition of the directives is significantly stricter than the directives themselves.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently announced that after 10 years in operation, it believes that it is time to introduce changes to its existing practice of issuing opinions on request by market participants. The commission will now focus on matters relevant to the implementation of regulations that either were never explored or require additional clarification due to the changes that have since occurred.
Although the long-awaited proposal to amend the Green Electricity Act was recently published, those who expected it to expand renewable energy in Austria will be disappointed and must patiently await the envisaged expansive amendment to the act. That said, the amendment package has brought some hope for new investments.
The Office for Competition and Consumer Protection (OCCP) recently issued a decision in which it concluded that wholesale supplier Fordex and sports retailer Intersport had entered into an anti-competitive agreement and violated Article 6 of the Competition Act. The OCCP's decision stressed that price agreements (even vertical ones) are serious infringements of competition law to which neither the de minimis rule nor the block exemption regulations can be applied.
The Competition Commission recently conducted a competition assessment of the Serbian insurance market between 2012 and 2015. The main objective of the assessment is to determine the market structure and the relationships between the largest competitors, as well as to detect market weaknesses that may ultimately result in competition infringement.