The Office for the Protection of Competition recently found two companies guilty of bid rigging in a public tender. While similar bid-rigging cases occur quite frequently and generally fall within the office's purview, this case is unique because, for the first time, the office was informed about the anti-competitive behaviour by a whistleblower and appointed a guardian for one of the parties involved.
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.
Parliament recently adopted a new law amending several sectorial laws concerning the processing of personal data. The new law aims to provide clarity in these areas and has amended the general rules of the Labour Code. It has also introduced a new chapter which sets out general rules on the handling of employee data. Although the amendments of the existing rules on the processing of employee data have been eagerly awaited, many practitioners have expressed their disappointment.
For the first time, the Supreme Court has upheld a security right granted under German law, even though the asset had been transferred to Austria. Previously, such rights were terminated once the asset was moved from Germany to Austria. The decision will substantially facilitate the financing of companies with cross-border business.
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.
The Austrian regulatory authority E-Control is responsible for ensuring an equal energy market and a fair market price. Each year E-Control reviews and defines the system charges for the use of electricity and gas networks on all network levels. The System Charges Ordinance 2019 and the Gas System Charges Ordinance 2019 bring further relief to system charges.
The national regulatory authority E-Control recently published its consultation document on the implementation of the network code on harmonised transmission tariff structures in Austria. The document is structured in line with the Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators consultation template. However, it appears that E-Control paid little attention to maximum transparency and traceability when setting transmission tariffs.
The Office for the Protection of Economic Competition recently fined Czech health products supplier TCM Herbs Kc853,000 (approximately €33,500) for resale price maintenance (RPM). TCM Herbs has appealed the decision. The office has not issued an RPM decision in a long time. As such, the outcome of the review by its chair will be closely followed and hopefully indicative in terms of how (or if) the office will consider a more economic approach.
The Office for the Protection of Economic Competition recently reviewed vertical aspects of online platforms and distribution channels, ultimately fining online booking platform Booking.com approximately €0.33 million for using most-favoured-nation (MFN) clauses in its contracts with hotels. Although the decision has not yet been published, it is hoped that it will be instructive in terms of how the office examines the conditions under which MFN clauses may be considered anti-competitive.
Until 2018, Austria had up to five different cancellation rights for insurance policyholders, plus the cancellation right pursuant to Section 8 of the Distance Financial Services Act. Thus, the legal situation was confusing. However, this has finally changed. Since 1 January 2019, a new Section 5c of the Insurance Contract Act provides for one unified cancellation right.
The Constitutional Court recently dealt with a complaint by an electric vehicle owner who had exceeded an Air Immission Protection Act speed limit. The driver claimed that his vehicle emitted no air pollutants and that the emission-dependent speed limit did not apply to him. The court disagreed. In response to this decision, the federal government created a legal exception for electric cars. However, whether all federal states will introduce an exception to the act's speed limit for electric cars remains unclear.
'Influencer marketing' means taking advantage of bloggers and other persons who have their own social media channels to promote goods and services. While the concept of transmitting arguably hidden advertising is problematic, there are many variations of this and the lines between hidden advertising and personal opinion are often blurred. As such, the Advertising Council recently issued guidelines for dealing with influencer marketing as a specific means of marketing communication.
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.
In Hungary, as is the case in other EU countries, recent economic growth has been accompanied by a labour shortage. Under pressure to find a solution, the government introduced a new law to amend the working time rules. Since its adoption, the new law has come under close scrutiny from opposition parties and trade unions, and in December 2018 thousands of people took to the streets to protest what has become known as the 'slave act'.
In order to ensure that gas supplies are secure and to achieve a high level of capacity availability, the Gas Act requires the market area manager (MAM) to prepare an annual coordinated network development plan. The MAM recently submitted a draft version of the 2018 plan to E-Control. The latest plan ensures that, among other things, the supply of gas to end consumers is protected, the line capacity is considered and transport requirements are met.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently granted Produkcija Plus doo (Pro Plus) €52,500 in compensation after its right to be heard was violated during proceedings relating to a fine imposed for obstructing a dawn raid. The ECHR stated, among other things, that even though the Supreme Court had been required to review the facts on which the fine was based, the court had not heard the evidence requested by Pro Plus.
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.