Austria, Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH updates

Arbitration & ADR

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH
Supreme Court scrutinises admissibility of videoconference hearings
  • Austria
  • 29 October 2020

The Supreme Court recently determined the admissibility of conducting an arbitral hearing by means of a videoconference in the context of challenge proceedings. The court held that even where one party opposes, ordering a remote hearing in arbitration is admissible and does not constitute a reason to challenge the arbitral tribunal. This decision must be regarded as a precedential landmark decision as it appears to be the first decision of any supreme court worldwide to tackle this issue.

Supreme Court specifies reasoning standards for awards
  • Austria
  • 08 October 2020

Under longstanding Supreme Court case law, defective reasoning did not previously constitute a severe enough violation of procedural public policy to set aside an award. However, in recent years, the court has reversed this trend and repeatedly held that non-adherence to certain reasoning standards in arbitral awards can be a ground to set aside an award. In a recent decision, the Supreme Court has provided further guidance on the required reasoning standards for awards.

Supreme Court scrutinises decision awarding costs to losing party
  • Austria
  • 16 July 2020

The Supreme Court recently considered whether a final arbitral award on the reimbursement of costs violated Austrian public policy. The claimant had ultimately succeeded in the arbitration conducted under the rules of the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce. Nevertheless, the cost decision ordered it to reimburse the respondent's costs. The Supreme Court dismissed the claimant's request to set aside the cost decision.

Supreme Court takes strict stance on conflict of interest
  • Austria
  • 16 January 2020

The Supreme Court recently considered whether the fact that an arbitrator and a party counsel in one arbitration acted as co-counsel in another unrelated arbitration cast doubt on the arbitrator's independence and impartiality and thus disqualified him from acting as arbitrator in the arbitration under review. In its decision, the court correctly acknowledged the reality of the Austrian arbitration scene, which results in frequent contact between practitioners.

Supreme Court evaluates hybrid arbitration agreement
  • Austria
  • 18 July 2019

The Supreme Court recently considered the validity of a hybrid arbitration agreement which provided for the formation of a tribunal under the International Chamber of Commerce Rules of Arbitration to arbitrate at the Vienna International Arbitral Centre. In this context, the court also considered the consequences of violating procedural rules agreed by the parties and the tribunal's failure to issue a reasoned award.


Employment & Immigration

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH
Competitive actions by employees through intermediaries: imputation of liability and restrictive covenants
  • Austria
  • 04 November 2020

Under Section 7 of the Employment Act, employees cannot, while employed and without their employer's consent, operate a commercial business or conclude commercial transactions in their employer's line of business. In a recent case, the Supreme Court had to decide whether the statutory prohibition also covers such competitive actions by employees through intermediaries or whether only the employees themselves have the standing to be sued by their employer.

Supreme Court rules on compensation for illegal GPS tracking
  • Austria
  • 16 September 2020

The Supreme Court recently ruled for the first time on the issue of whether GPS tracking without an employee's consent warrants compensation for immaterial damage. Employers that use GPS tracking systems or similar control measures to monitor their staff should ensure that they agree the system's introduction with the works council or have each affected employee expressly consent to such a measure if no works council has been elected.

Supreme Court rules on formal requirements for dismissal challenge
  • Austria
  • 22 July 2020

The Supreme Court recently clarified the legal implications of one particular scenario of dismissal challenges: if a works council expressly objects to an employee's dismissal (as opposed to expressly consents or fails to make a statement), the right to challenge the dismissal rests with the works council, but only if the employee, within one week of such objection, requests the works council to act accordingly and file a lawsuit.

Continued remuneration during COVID-19 pandemic
  • Austria
  • 13 May 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused employers to use various methods to support employees and maintain business performance. Old and new legal remedies provide for continued payment of salaries (and in some cases also corresponding grants to employers) if performance of work is impossible. This article outlines the routes that employers and employees can take where normal working is impossible, such as sick leave and care leave to look after sick children.

COVID-19: short-time work
  • Austria
  • 06 May 2020

Austria pioneered short-time work schemes. Introduced in 1949 and overhauled in 2008 and 2009 during the financial crisis, the Austrian short-time work scheme has recently been further adapted to the particular needs of the COVID-19 crisis. This article examines who is eligible for the short-time work scheme and what subsidies are available.


Real Estate

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH
COVID-19 measures may entitle tenants to rent reductions
  • Austria
  • 03 April 2020

In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the government has ordered all shops and service providers, except those providing certain vital services, to close to customers from 17 March 2020 until 13 April 2020. The closure of shops may entitle tenants to reduced rent and ancillary costs. However, it does not entitle tenants to terminate their lease for cause. This article sets out guidance for affected tenants and landlords.

Supreme Court redefines location surcharge in rent control leases
  • Austria
  • 18 October 2019

In early 2019 the Supreme Court passed three decisions confirming and clarifying its 2017 decision which had limited landlords' right to request a location surcharge for rent-controlled apartments in desirable neighbourhoods. Based on the court's judgment, approximately 100,000 apartments no longer qualify for the location surcharge. However, the court's vague criteria for determining whether a neighbourhood is considered above or below average leave scope to include additional indicators.

Vienna Building Code: new provision renders short-term letting illegal
  • Austria
  • 31 May 2019

A new provision in the Vienna Building Code recently entered into force, rendering short-term letting – including through rental services such as Airbnb – illegal in large areas of Vienna. Further, under the new provision, all parts of residential zone buildings that were being used for residential purposes when the provision entered into force – or were built thereafter – may be used only for residential purposes. That said, the new provision may be unconstitutional.

Demolition crackdown: Vienna protects its buildings
  • Austria
  • 31 August 2018

The City of Vienna recently announced its intention to reform the building code. Some building owners consider it unfair that strict maintenance obligations and rent limits apply only to old buildings, whereas buildings constructed after 8 May 1945 can be let at market rent. As a result, many building owners have chosen to tear down historic buildings and erect new concrete and steel structures in their place. Therefore, one of the aims of the reform is to protect the city's historic buildings.

Supreme Court manages shopping centre management costs
  • Austria
  • 08 June 2018

Service charge provisions in shopping centre lease agreements frequently give rise to disputes between landlords and shop operators. In a recent decision on such costs, the Supreme Court offered some insights into shopping centre lease agreements which go beyond service charge provisions.


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