The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has created a new understanding and awareness of data protection. Despite being a directly applicable legal act, the GDPR has created significant work for the Austrian federal legislature, which has chosen to impose it by implementing the narrow but general Data Protection Act and introducing amendments to ordinary legal acts individually. However, these amendments are essentially limited to wording adjustments and restrictions on data subjects' rights.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) recently published a strategy paper presenting its views on consumer protection in the digital age. The paper subtly indicates that the HCA will continue to follow the European Commission's guidance in this regard. It also highlights the measures which the HCA deems necessary to protect consumers and keep up with the developments and companies central to this process.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina Competition Council will apply new tariffs as from November 2018. Among these, the most significant are the increased merger control clearance fees, which have doubled. The council took inspiration for the new tariffs from those of other regional competition authorities, including the Serbian and Montenegrin commissions.
Parliament recently adopted a new comprehensive environmental package comprising the Aarhus Participation Act, an amendment to the Environmental Impact Assessment Act and an amendment to the Federal Environmental Liability Act. With the new package, the legislature has attempted to manage the difficult act of balancing the necessary legal adaptations of administrative procedural law with EU law and creating a business environment that is nevertheless competitive.
The Constitutional Court recently ruled on whether the Squeeze-Out Act is compatible with the Constitution. The plaintiff argued that certain provisions of the Squeeze-Out Act violate the Constitution because they restrict shareholders' property rights and the principle of equality (rights enshrined in both the Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights). However, the Constitutional Court held that this was not the case.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently approved the acquisition of Rapido Express and Logistics OOD by its competitor Speedy AD. However, at the same time, the CPC penalised Speedy AD for failing to provide complete and accurate information in its concentration notification which the commission deemed materially and substantially important for evaluating the deal.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently adopted new guidelines on the method of setting fines for competition law infringements. The new guidelines are intended to underline the repressive and preventive function of fines. As a result, undertakings can expect higher fines for infringements of competition rules than under the previous regime.
Although the Companies Law created flexible mechanisms and procedures allowing specific shareholder powers to be delegated to a company's management, it also provides that only some decisions made in this regard can be subject to an annulment action. Specifically, the law excludes decisions which concern an increase in a company's share capital from being challenged. However, the Constitutional Court recently recognised shareholders' right to request the annulment of such decisions in court.
One year has passed since the Act on Counteracting the Unfair Use of Contractual Advantage in the Trade of Agricultural and Food Products entered into force. The act aimed to protect small farmers and grocery suppliers against the abuse of power by large supermarkets and chain stores. The government recently adopted an amendment to the act which will allow the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection to intervene in cases involving smaller farmers.
The Austrian Data Protection Authority (DPA) recently published its first decision on retention periods following the enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation. The decision is final. The DPA had to decide how long a telecoms service provider must retain so-called 'master data' – that is, data required for the controller's legal relationship with the users of its services.
In recent years, the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) has seemingly aimed to foster cooperation between itself and market participants. Recent case law shows that the HCA strives for cooperation even when market participants allegedly commit grave infringements of the competition rules. Market participants are advised to harness this tendency and the HCA's willingness to reach decisions more efficiently.
The European Commission has proposed to implement a directive on work-life balance for parents and carers which aims to increase the number of dual-earning families and help women return to work, while also requiring more flexibility from employers. Should the proposed directive enter into force, it will set minimum standards regarding parental and carer leave and will thus bring about considerable change for the Hungarian employment and social systems.
The Constitution provides so-called 'state targets', which are broadly diversified and include state targets on sustainability. The approval procedure for the third runway at Vienna International Airport has prompted the government to strengthen Austria as a business location. This should be achieved by amending the Federal Constitutional Law on Sustainability which, among other things, contains a state target on creating comprehensive environmental protection.
The proposed new Location Development Act aims to regulate a special selection procedure for individual, location-relevant projects (eg, electricity grids and power plants). While the economy rejoices over faster legal security, non-governmental organisations and lawyers have expressed doubts about the maintenance of the standard of other material laws and the legal admissibility of the government project.
Until recently, Romanian companies could distribute dividends to shareholders only on an annual basis and on approval of their annual financial statements at the end of each financial year. This paradigm has changed and companies can now opt to distribute their dividends annually or quarterly. Although these newly acquired corporate rights have been widely welcomed within the Romanian business markets, they may initially be treated with suspicion by entrepreneurs.
In 2017 the Competition Protection Agency initiated proceedings against Renault. The company was suspected of treating authorised mechanics and independent mechanics differently, which gave the agency grounds to believe that Renault had abused its dominant position. In response, Renault proposed remedies in an attempt to address the agency's concerns and eliminate the alleged anti-competitive effects on the market. The agency recently closed the proceedings and accepted the commitments.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently prohibited two concentrations in politically sensitive sectors (media and energy). The CPC's decisions were widely criticised for lacking valid economic arguments. Further, in both decisions the CPC limited its legal arguments to several paragraphs and failed to clarify how acquiring non-competitors (or at least non-major competitors) could strengthen the resulting group's dominant position and thus impede competition.
The Serbian Competition Authority has initiated ex officio antitrust proceedings against Serbia Broadband – Srpske kablovske mreže doo Belgrade on grounds of suspected abuse of dominance. This is the first case in which the authority has initiated abuse of dominance proceedings based on soft behavioural remedy (ie, the obligation to report prices).
The Serbian Competition Authority and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have launched an initiative to establish a regional competition forum. The forum will include all Western Balkan states (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania) and two EU member states (Slovenia and Croatia). The Centre for Liberal-Democratic Studies has been enlisted as a consultant to help design, implement and manage the forum's operations.