With an amendment to the Electricity Industry and Organisation Act passed by Parliament, the network reserve will become part of Austria's congestion management system. The aim of the network reserve is to achieve network stability and security of supply in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Procurement is carried out within the framework of a transparent, non-discriminatory and market-oriented tendering procedure.
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.
The Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has opened an investigation and conducted dawn raids at the premises of importers and wholesalers of consumer electronics for possible anti-competitive agreements concerning resale price maintenance. Based on a preliminary assessment, the CPC believes that importers and wholesalers imposed price restrictions on retailers.
The Croatian Competition Agency (CCA) recently closed the infringement proceeding against Croatia's largest insurer which had been opened ex officio. The proceeding concerned the exclusivity clauses in the insurer's commercial lease agreements; the CCA's main concern was that the clauses prevented landlords from cooperating with other insurers and thus restricted potential competition in the insurance market.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently announced in a press release that it had imposed a Kc32 million (approximately €1.2 million) fine on Czech retail chain HRUŠKA, spol sro for an alleged abuse of significant market power. According to the press release, the retail chain allegedly violated the Significant Market Power Act by fully transferring all business risks and losses associated with the sale of goods nearing their expiration date to dozens of its suppliers between 2016 and 2019.
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.
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.
In 2017 the Office for the Protection of Competition imposed a gun-jumping fine of Kc4.9 million (approximately €190,000) on Armex Oil sro, a company active in the wholesale fuel market (gasoline and diesel). However, Armex Oil challenged the amount of the fine before the competent regional court, which found the fine to be disproportionate and reduced it. The office then filed an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court, which ultimately backed the original fine.
As of 4 November 2020 and 11 November 2020, the government introduced new COVID-19 restrictions, including the limited order to stay at home between 8:00pm and 5:00am. The law treats employment and business-related travel as a key exception from the rules. Thus, for business purposes, not only is cross-border travelling allowed, but so is travelling during curfew hours.
Dashcams have become increasingly popular in recent years and a built-in dashcam is now the most sought-after feature among car buyers. Buyers' primary motivation is self-explanatory: recorded footage can be used as evidence in case of an accident. However, whether dashcams are incompatible with privacy and data protection law and thus illegal on Austrian roads is a tricky question.
The Competition Protection Agency has initiated an investigation into a potential restrictive agreement or concerted practices among four energy companies. The agency has reasons to believe that the companies breached Article 6 of the Prevention of the Restriction of Competition Act and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union by agreeing to accept returns of only their own liquefied petroleum gas cylinders.
Law 223/2020 recently introduced a series of important changes to the Companies Law. It appears that the goal of these provisions is to further simplify the legal requirements for setting up and operating limited liability companies so that they become more attractive to investors seeking to carry out business in Romania.
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.
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.
The Slovenian government has decided that price control measures in the field of fuel products are no longer necessary, meaning that the retail fuel market will be fully liberalised from October 2020. Following deregulation, fair competition in the fuel market will be ensured through the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and its Slovenian equivalents and Articles 6 and 9 of the Prevention of Restriction of Competition Act, which prohibit anti-competitive practices and abuse of dominance in the market.
The eagerly awaited draft Renewable Energy Expansion Act (EAG) was recently published for evaluation. To help achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement 2015, the draft creates new framework conditions for the expansion of renewable energy in Austria. In view of the high level of funding, the EAG leaves no doubt that the expansion of renewable energies is one of Austria's main objectives for the next 10 years. However, a look at other countries clearly shows that funding alone will not be enough.
Pursuant to Government Decree 408/2020 (VIII 30), Hungary closed its borders to non-Hungarian citizens as of 1 September 2020. The new rules abolish the tricolour system of green, yellow and red countries and qualify virtually all countries as red. Reclosing Hungary's borders appears to be a straightforward measure to fight the pandemic on the one hand, but on the other, there is a risk of going against the European Union's basic principle of free movement. But is that the case here?
A second-instance court has rejected PKP Cargo's appeal against a Zl14.22 million (€3.2 million) abuse of dominance fine. The Office for Competition and Consumer Protection originally imposed the fine in 2015, as it found that PKP Cargo had abused its dominant position in the domestic rail freight market by unlawfully changing the rules for the sale of freight services, allowing the company to refuse to sign special contracts with competitors.
In July 2020 a new foreign direct investment (FDI) screening act, the Investment Control Act (ICA), entered into force. The ICA, which largely transposes the requirements of the EU Foreign Investment Screening Regulation, is in line with the general EU trend of tightening or enacting FDI screening instruments, which has been fuelled by concerns of buy-outs of critical European infrastructure by foreign investors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The National Council of Agricultural Chambers recently asked the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) to look into potential competition rule breaches in the soft fruit market, especially regarding the sale of gooseberries. According to gooseberry growers, the buying price of gooseberries is too low compared with the potential price of further sale. The UOKiK is set to investigate Poland's soft fruit market over suspected price fixing.