The Higher Administrative Court recently requested that the Constitutional Court repeal Section 39(2) of the Trade Act, as it infringes fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution. Austrian legal practitioners are already eagerly awaiting this judgment, which is expected to be issued during 2018.
Parliament recently passed a new law on the registration of beneficial owners of Austrian legal entities. After obtaining the necessary approval of the Austrian federal states, the law is expected to enter into force on January 15 2018. In disclosing the relevant information on beneficial owners, the register aims to detect and prevent money laundering, especially with regard to complex corporate structures, holding companies or private foundations and trusts.
The typical way to invest in an Austrian company is by way of a capital increase. However, there are formalities with respect to limited liability companies (LLCs) – the most popular legal form in Austria – that sometimes make investing in LLCs unattractive or burdensome. To eliminate the concerns associated with these transactions, Austrian law provides a suitable, but widely unknown, alternative investment instrument: participation rights.
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.
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.
In 2014 the Austrian Supreme Court submitted a request to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of EU law regarding cross-border mergers. The ECJ recently ruled that in cases of merger by acquisition, all contracts entered into by the transferor company pass to the acquiring company without novation. Thus, the law applicable to the contracts before the merger also applies to the underlying contracts after the merger.
The new government recently presented its government programme, which sets out its framework and indicates the legislative projects that it intends to implement over the coming five years. As part of the programme, the government hopes to have 100% of the national electricity supply come from renewable sources by 2030. However, as there are no details on how this goal will be achieved, it remains to be seen what changes the energy sector will face.
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.
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.
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.
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 first update and review of Austria's national water management planning instrument has revealed that the objectives of the EU Water Framework Directive will be achieved neither to their full extent nor in a timely manner. Nonetheless, the National Water Management Plan 2015 is a useful and comprehensive document that contains extensive information for all stakeholders and sets out the next steps to achieve the ultimate goal of restoring Austria's water bodies.
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.
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 Federal Administrative Court recently addressed whether the party to a winning project in a conflict procedure was entitled to claim rights in the environmental impact assessment for the inferior project. The court ruled that, on the one hand, the legal standing of a party in a conflict procedure is not strictly restricted to that procedure. On the other hand, the court found that being party to a conflict procedure does not guarantee unlimited legal standing in the approval procedure of the other project.
The Federal Administrative Court recently confirmed that neighbours in earlier cases can enforce an environmental impact assessment only in subsequent approval proceedings. Further, the court has clarified that neighbours do not have party status in declaratory decision proceedings. As the legislature had failed to regulate earlier cases, this decision is a valuable contribution to procedural law.
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.
A draft law amending the Federal Act against Unfair Competition 1984 and the Price Labelling Act was recently published for public consultation. The draft law intends to introduce a ban on most-favoured nation clauses in contracts between online travel agencies and hotel operators. Commercially, the draft law puts online travel agencies' business model at risk and may even deter innovation and investments beyond this niche industry.
The Austrian registry operator recently initiated the launch process for approximately 5,000 one and two-character domain names under the top-level domain (TLD) '.at'. Owners of trademarks consisting of one or two characters should consider requesting delegation of their short trademarks as domains under the '.at' TLD in order to use them or at least prevent unauthorised third parties from taking advantage of their marks.
Employers are increasingly keen to introduce a 'bring your own device' (BYOD) policy, which allows them to assign company device management to employees and, by doing so, save manpower and costs on device support and maintenance. However, there is a downside: BYOD involves allowing employees to access (sometimes sensitive) company data through their private devices.
The European Commission recently published a new regulation on the measures applicable to the notification of personal data breaches under the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications. When the regulation enters into force, national rules that are in contradiction to European law must cease to apply. This raises some substantial questions with regard to the application of the Austrian Telecommunications Act.