In 2019 a number of airlines challenged fines issued by the Immigration Authority (DNM) – in particular, fines relating to an entrance tax imposed on US, Canadian and Australian citizens. A number of recent court decisions revoked such fines and may lead the way towards a new conceptual approach by the Argentine courts regarding the fines that the DNM regularly, and often incorrectly, imposes on airlines.
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the introduction of several new resolutions in Argentina. For example, on 12 March 2020, in a general agreement of ministers, the president decreed a state of public emergency for one year and on 19 March 2020 a number of social, preventive and mandatory isolation measures were established. This article examines the effects of COVID-19 on the Argentine aviation industry.
Federal Civil and Commercial Court 2 recently dismissed a damages claim against Aeromexico brought by two passengers for the rescheduling of their flights. The court found that the decision to reschedule the relevant flights had been approved by the Argentine Aviation Authority and that the plaintiffs had been informed of the rescheduled flights in a correct, clear and detailed way.
On 23 December 2019 a 30% tax on services hired abroad by travel agencies located in Argentina was introduced. The fact that the new tax applied the day after its introduction created chaos for air companies as non-compliance can trigger fines with interest. The Argentine Tax Authority recently introduced a resolution to address the lack of clarity surrounding the collection of the new tax, but it will take time for carriers to implement the measures required to comply with the new regulations.
The Immigration Authority (DNM) repeatedly imposes substantial fines on carriers. Despite the fact that in many cases these fines have been wrongly imposed, airlines must pay any outstanding fines in order to file a judicial complaint against the DNM, so the fines are widely viewed as another cost of operating in Argentina. That said, a number of airlines have recently challenged the DNM's fines and the courts have given a clear sign that, even with the above difficulties, it is worth challenging this legal loophole.
The government recently published Decree 872/2018, ordering the Secretariat of Energy to launch the first round of international competitive bidding for offshore exploration permits. Given Argentina's size and the potential for the discovery of new energy sources, the government aims to exploit its resources through effective investment in seismic surveys and hydrocarbon explorations in partnership with major oil and gas companies.
The Ministry of Energy and Mining recently issued Resolution 197/2018, which details the requirements and procedures relating to obtaining reconnaissance permits and the commercial use of data obtained during reconnaissance activities along the Argentine Continental Shelf. Although the Ministry of Energy and Mining has already granted a number of offshore exploration licences, significant potential for offshore basin exploitation remains.
The rapid growth in internet use has given rise to conflicts between registered trademark owners and third parties using said marks. For example, search engine advertising systems make it possible to create ads that show products or services to users who are looking for them. Federal Court of Appeals in Civil and Commercial Matters case law provides useful guidance on the use of third-party trademarks as keywords in internet advertising.
Until the approval of Emergency Decree 274/2019 in April 2019, the regulation of unfair competition in Argentina was characterised by a lack of organisation, narrow scope and lack of a general rule for standardising acts of unfair competition. The new decree sets out numerous provisions that are relevant to the IP field, including provisions addressing the regulation of comparative advertising, designations of origin, secrecy, data exclusivity and trademarks.
The protection provided under industrial property law to commercial signs registered with the National Institute of Industrial Property is more effective than that offered by unfair competition law. It is therefore worth questioning whether unfair competition law exercises any function with regard to the protection of registered signs. There may be sectors in which the protection of a rights holder's interest requires the combined use of IP and competition law.
Since the Trademark Law reserves the right to use a trademark for the mark's owner, legal scholars in Argentina have long debated whether the use of trademarks in comparative advertising is permitted. With the recent approval of Emergency Decree 274/2019, legislation has, for the first time, addressed comparative advertising in Argentina in a detailed and systematic manner and established when it is allowed.
Emergency Decree 274/2019 has established a comprehensive system for regulating unfair competition. Many practices punished by the new unfair competition rules affect IP rights. Further, the new legislation establishes a series of provisions that are highly valued in the IP field, including the detailed regulation of comparative advertising and provisions referring to names of origin and trade secrets.
Argentina has not ratified Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and there is no domestic legislation concerning the use of exhaust gas cleaning systems. As a result, there is no prohibition on the use of open-loop scrubbers in territorial seas or internal waterways (eg, when manoeuvring inbound or outbound on the Paraná River or when a vessel is idling or carrying out a loading or discharging operation at a port).
Further to a National Cabinet meeting on 16 March 2020, a new regulation was introduced which prohibits entry into Argentina by sea, air or land for 15 calendar days by non-resident foreign nationals; this timeframe may be extended or lifted by the government as deemed appropriate. Given the uncertainty about the duration of these measures, it remains to be seen what effect they will have on the maritime industry.
The question of whether foreign-flagged ships involved in international trade are subject to value added tax (VAT) when supplying bunkers in Argentina is frequently posed. If a vessel is supplied bunkers in one Argentine port and subsequently calls to another Argentine port before proceeding overseas, this is generally considered to be cabotage and is therefore subject to VAT.
Local authorities have increasingly exercised their power to enforce local regulations concerning waste disposal and broadened the responsibility of vessels in this regard. It has become common practice for local authorities to request the compulsory discharge of waste from vessels, even if this action appears to go against commonly accepted international law that is binding in Argentina.
Ships calling at ports on the Parana river are increasingly being asked to submit a pest control certificate to the Health Authority. Failure to comply with this request could require the ship to be fumigated. However, this can be avoided if a ship can prove that it has been fumigated by a competent authority or if it has been exempted from such operation in the past six months and obtained a certificate from the health authorities of a port officially authorised for this purpose.