The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) was recently given significant new investigative powers under the framework of its merger control duties. Should parties decide not to submit a voluntary filing when meeting the voluntary notification threshold, the HCA can initiate an investigation on its own accord and undertake a fully fledged merger control proceeding. The HCA recently announced that it has commenced its first such ex officio merger control investigation.
Employers are often frustrated by employees' incapacity to work for health reasons, but they must act with care when addressing such situations. In an attempt to protect employee interests, legal regulations provide certain restrictions on what employers can do if an employee is unable to work for health reasons. A recent Supreme Court decision has further clarified some of these restrictions.
Organisations with legal entities and employees in several EU member states often try to centralise their human resources (HR) functions to some extent, which occasionally requires them to share employee and HR data within their group. Although existing Hungarian law provides a stable legal environment with clear rules for employers as data processors, there is a general feeling of uncertainty around this topic, which is partly due to the upcoming entry into force of the EU General Data Protection Regulation.
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.
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.
In recent years, the digital market has expanded rapidly in Hungary in almost every sector. Numerous companies (eg, Uber and AirBnb) have entered the Hungarian market and significantly changed the landscape of entire sectors with their innovative services. The possible competition law issues concern the fact that these new innovative companies can quickly achieve a dominant position. Further, in some sectors, online platforms used by third parties can restrict competition between users.
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 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.
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.
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.
A recent amendment to the Act on Labour Safety reduced the number of employees who can be employed at a workplace before an employer must elect a work safety representative from 50 to 20. Employers that are affected by the new regulation are advised to ensure that they comply with the requirements governing health and safety at work and elect a work safety representative.
The government recently exempted the state-owned national electricity provider and an energy company from having to fulfil merger control obligations before their intended merger. According to the relevant government decree, the concentration was of national strategic importance, as it facilitated affordable energy supply for consumers. This exemption is not unprecedented under Hungarian competition law.
Research shows that – in accordance with global trends – Hungarian employers tend to attach great importance to fostering diversity in the workplace. Although some employers have yet to implement particular measures in this regard, few refuse to address the issue. The employment of workers from all age groups is a key focus area, along with the employment of workers with a reduced capacity to work and low-skilled and disabled workers.
Although performance-based compensation has long been an integral part of Hungarian employment law, neither the Labour Code nor the relevant commentaries provide a clear-cut definition of a 'bonus'. As a result, the definition and key legal principles governing bonuses have been developed by court practice, which shifted after the economic crisis and the adoption of the new Labour Code in 2012.
Pharmaceutical companies and other healthcare suppliers have always been of special interest to the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) due to the associated public health concerns. In light of this, the HCA has concluded several cooperation agreements with other agencies, including the National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition, to facilitate the investigation of these markets, which has led to an increase in the number of consumer protection cases.
While the conclusion of non-compete agreements or inclusion of non-compete clauses and other restrictive covenants in employment contracts is common practice in Hungary, a number of issues frequently arise – particularly in regards to statutory compensation, enforceability and unilateral termination. To avoid legal disputes, employers should carefully consider these issues before concluding non-compete agreements.
In July 2013 the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) initiated a sectoral inquiry into the online accommodation booking market, following its identification of market tendencies that had a potential distortive effect on competition. The HCA recently published its final report, which provides valuable insight on the market and online travel agency practices.
Under the Hungarian fringe benefit framework (the so-called 'cafeteria system'), employers offer employees a choice of different benefits of a set value, which are subsidised by the state and therefore beneficial to both parties. Several amendments to the system are planned, mainly due to a potential amendment to the personal income tax laws and a recent European Court of Justice judgment, which held that the system violated EU law.