Competition & Antitrust, Hungary, Schoenherr updates

Spar will create opportunities for local small producers as redress for abuse of significant market power
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 28 January 2021

The Hungarian Competition Authority's (HCA's) recent decision in an abuse of significant market power case against Spar has created a forward-looking solution which is unprecedented in such cases. As a proactive reparation for the competition infringement and in order to avoid an HCA fine, the supermarket chain will develop a new regional supply system. The programme will have a budget of HUF1.7 billion and will not only improve small producers' sales opportunities, but also create new jobs.

Future Hungarian 'superbank' exempted from merger control scrutiny
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 14 January 2021

The planned merger of three banks into a new Hungarian bank holding (a so-called 'superbank') was announced in Spring 2020. Normally, such a merger would require competition authority approval. However, the government has issued a decree exempting the superbank's merger from competition scrutiny. The government held that the measure was required from a public interest standpoint in order to boost the Hungarian financial sector's competitiveness.

Compliance and competition enforcement in sales and promotions – where does Black Friday guide us?
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 10 December 2020

The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) is one of the few competition enforcers in Europe with a prominent consumer protection enforcement practice. The HCA's holiday sales practice has tremendous potential to aid companies which aim to throw large-scale sales but at the same time intend to avoid large-scale fines. This article distils the HCA's recent practice into clear guidelines in order to assist companies with any sales or promotional campaigns.

HCA receives boost in enforcement against large retail chains
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 03 December 2020

In 2015 the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) imposed a staggering fine on Auchan for abusing its significant market power. The HUF1,06 billion (approximately €3 million) fine is the highest ever imposed by the authority for the infringement of the Trade Act. Although the decision is from 2015, the Hungarian courts have only now put an end to the judicial review. The Supreme Court recently upheld the HCA's decision in its entirety.

Investigation into TikTok – HCA takes on the tech world
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 12 November 2020

The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) recently initiated an investigation into TikTok, the popular social media platform. TikTok's capacity to generate vast amounts of consumer data and shower its users with ads has already sounded several alarm bells as regulators attempt to make sense of the phenomena that is digitalisation. The HCA took the initiative to scrutinise the platform with a focus on consumer protection.

More pressure selling in hotel booking sector – cooperation with HCA prevents substantial fine
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 29 October 2020

Following the first market study in the consumer protection field in 2019 relating to the application of digital comparison tools, the Hungarian Competition Authority did not hesitate to apply its findings in practice. In early 2020 it imposed a record fine on Booking.com BV for unfair commercial practices. This has now been followed by a decision that Szallas.hu, the biggest local market player and a main competitor of Booking.com, engaged in unfair practices. However, this time, no fine was imposed.

HCA imposes record fine on Booking.com for unfair commercial practices
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 02 July 2020

The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) recently imposed a record fine on Booking.com BV for undertaking unfair commercial practices by misleadingly advertising certain hotel rooms with "free cancellation" and engaging in pressure selling. Although a surprise for many industry players, this decision aligns with the HCA's tendency to impose significantly higher fines in unfair commercial practice cases compared with previous years.

Upcoming amendments to Competition Act
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 21 May 2020

Parliament recently adopted a new act to ensure that the Competition Act fully complies with EU Directive 2019/1/EU (ECN+ Directive). The Hungarian legislature has chosen to apply most of the ECN+ Directive rules to all antitrust proceedings (ie, regardless of whether they are conducted under Hungarian or EU law). However, in certain cases, the scope of the new provisions will be limited to proceedings on an EU legal basis.

COVID-19: competition law considerations for businesses
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 07 May 2020

The government recently declared a state of emergency in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic and issued a special legal order. To date, no provision has been adopted under the special legal order allowing for a special exemption from the rules of competition law. Affected undertakings must therefore continue to pay attention to competition compliance. This article aims to help companies meet these requirements in view of the European Competition Network's recommendations.

Increased fines – HCA targets telecom companies
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 12 March 2020

In the past three months, three telecom giants received unexpectedly heavy fines from the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) in consumer protection cases. In 2019 the HCA imposed more fines in total for unfair commercial practices against consumers than in cartel cases and, on the basis of its recent decisions, it looks likely to do the same in 2020. These recent decisions also show that repeated infringements are now subject to a stricter assessment.

Rising focus on HCA settlement proceedings – case law round-up
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 19 December 2019

Since 1 July 2014, companies have been able to initiate settlement proceedings with the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA). Recent case law suggests that the HCA has aimed to foster cooperation between itself and market participants and is striving for cooperation even when market participants allegedly commit grave infringements of competition rule commitments.

Compensating consumers may save reputation
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 19 September 2019

Misleading business-to-consumer information may lead to significant fines. Two recent Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) decisions prove that the HCA has maintained its position as a watchdog of both consumer rights and fair competition. In both cases, the companies were investigated by the HCA because they had omitted to tell customers important information, thereby harming them.

By cash or card? HCA releases findings of sector inquiry into bank card acceptance market
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 15 August 2019

In 2017 the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) initiated a sector inquiry into the bank card acceptance market. Although the market was found to be competitive and functioning in accordance with the relevant regulations, the HCA has made a number of recommendations to both the legislature and market players in order to stimulate further growth.

Digital consumer protection in action – HCA launches market study into digital comparison tools
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 09 May 2019

The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) has launched a market study to explore the specific market developments relating to the application of digital comparison tools and their effects on consumers' decision making. The market study puts the HCA's mid-term digital consumer protection strategy paper into action and demonstrates the HCA's recent focus on consumer protection and efforts to serve as a lighthouse in the digital age.

Digital consumer protection – Black Friday success turns sour for major online marketplace
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 24 January 2019

After a record-breaking Black Friday promotion, an online retailer is now suffering the consequences. According to the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA), eMAG may have failed to meet the standards of professional diligence by misleading consumers with its 2018 Black Friday campaign. This action was one of the first to be initiated under the umbrella of the HCA's digital consumer protection strategy paper.

HCA publishes digital consumer protection strategy
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 06 December 2018

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.

HCA's recent practice: cooperation and commitments
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 20 September 2018

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.

Influencers have been targeted by the HCA, but what about buying followers?
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 05 July 2018

With the global development of the Internet, life has changed radically in just a few decades, and legislation can barely keep up. The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) has been monitoring developments and has not been afraid to intervene in the interests of fair competition and the protection of consumer rights. Influencers have recently been targeted by the HCA, especially regarding their promotional activity.

Compliance and compensation in consumer protection cases: the Vodafone example
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 01 February 2018

A recent Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) decision concerning Vodafone demonstrates that a reasonable cooperative approach may significantly affect the level of fine imposed on an undertaking, as the HCA reduced the fine imposed on Vodafone by more than 50% based solely on its cooperative measures. Although this case is unique, it signals that compliance and cooperation efforts which exceed the necessary legal requirements do not go unnoticed.

HCA uses new investigative tool under merger control regime
Schoenherr
  • Hungary
  • 30 November 2017

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.

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