The Austrian Parliament recently passed an amendment to the law on limited liability companies (LLCs) aimed at simplifying the foundation of a special kind of LLC. The purpose of the changes – and the simplifications associated with them – have been hotly debated.
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.
In a recent decision the Supreme Court held, in line with prior case law, that apparent authority requires the circumstances on which the assumption of authority is based to be induced by the principal, not by the representative. Although this is not new, the verdict has helped to clarify the boundaries of apparent authority. Certain key requirements must be met in order to establish apparent authority and thus allow the counterparty to rely on it.
Most start-ups are founded by first-time founders directly after graduation, with the founding team typically consisting of no more than two members. Because of this, founders are often unequipped to deal with the business challenges that they will face. Founders thus often make mistakes, especially at the start. Having an advisory board with qualified and trusted members can help a start-up to transform its potential into successes and create a foundation for sustainable development.
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.
The Competition Council's main activities in 2016 included issuing opinions and conducting proceedings pursuant to requests filed by undertakings or ex officio. A total of 50% of the cases filed were processed in 2016, while the remaining cases have been carried over to 2017. The council's total income from administrative fees in 2016 was KM234,574 (approximately €115,000), while collected fines reached KM624,492 (approximately €610,000).
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.
The Competition Protection Commission recently fined Kaufland Bulgaria EOOD for abuse of stronger bargaining power regarding its supplier, Keti-94 OOD. This is the second commission decision relating to abuse of bargaining power – a concept introduced into Bulgarian legislation in July 2015. The commission found Kaufland's breach to be severe and imposed a 7% fine generated from Kaufland's turnover on the market for sales of low-priced alcohol.
In Hungary, employers have significant freedom to change their organisational structure and reorganise their workforce, which includes dismissing employees. However, there are some limitations – both generally and in the context of anti-discrimination rules. Even if the courts respect employers' freedom in organising their workforce, employers must be careful not to exceed the limits of this freedom in order to prevent disputes.
The president of the Competition Commission, Miloje Obradović, recently spoke at the Sub-committee on Internal Market and Competition meeting. He briefed the European Commission on all of the activities undertaken to implement the Competition Act and on the level of harmonisation of Serbian competition legislation with the acquis communautaire. Obradović emphasised that future sectoral analyses will focus on the markets that have caught the commission's attention in the past.
E-Control recently announced the next methodology for determining costs for gas transmission system operators (TSOs), which will apply until December 31 2020. The methodology is based on the incentives stipulated for the second regulation period for gas. It applies the calculation of TSOs' allowed costs and their volume production and comprises framework conditions for all entry and exit points, as well as interconnection points of the TSOs transmission lines.
The Competition Commission recently issued a decision determining that Bora Kečić and Large Transport had engaged in bid rigging in a public tender procedure launched by public utility company Elektromreže Srbije. By entering into a restrictive agreement, these undertakings significantly restricted and distorted competition. The commission issued fines of approximately €8,000 per company.
Following the latest amendments to the Competition Act, the Hungarian Competition Authority recently published an updated filing form and new guidelines on merger control proceedings. Together with the increased merger control thresholds introduced by the amendments, the new filing form and merger control guidelines should make Hungarian merger control proceedings easier for concentrations from January 15 2017.