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.
Following media reports on the difficulties involved with replacing managing agents (who are in charge of managing multi-apartment buildings), excessive management costs and the ousting of small managing agents from the market, the Competition Protection Agency has carried out market research on managing multi-apartment buildings. Such issues could indicate a restriction or distortion of competition in Slovenia or abuse of a dominant position of one or more managing agent companies.
The new government composed of the Austrian People's Party and the Green Party recently presented the government programme for 2020 to 2024, which contains comprehensive measures to promote the expansion of renewable energies. Accordingly, the Renewable Energies Expansion Act, which has been planned for a long time and was drawn up under the penultimate government, is to be enacted as quickly as possible.
Austria's new coalition government consisting of the People's Party and the Green Party recently published its programme for the legislative period 2020 to 2024. The programme is called Taking Responsibility for Austria and should make Austria a pioneer in climate protection. The Paris Agreement climate targets are to be met at all costs, while the Climate Protection Act should ensure that Austria does not exceed its CO2 budget.
The Supreme Court recently dealt, for the first time, with the judicial authorisation of a transfer of shares with restricted transferability in joint stock companies. The court's legal reasoning will be of great interest, especially for parties undertaking transactions where only a block of shares is sold and a transfer restriction is included in the articles of association, as is often the case in Austria.
Following a European Court of Justice decision concerning the air quality measurement criteria set out in the EU Air Quality Directive, individuals in affected areas and non-governmental organisations can now take direct action in Austria against wrongfully installed air quality measuring points. The Austrian Higher Administrative Court recently addressed this matter and explained how those concerned in Austria should proceed.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently introduced new merger filing guidelines. The former guidelines did not differentiate between transactions, despite potential competition concerns. The new guidelines address this practical problem and provide for two types of filing: a simplified merger filing for mergers that are unlikely to raise competition concerns and a more extensive merger filing for concentrations which are expected to significantly affect the relevant markets.
A series of minor yet impactful amendments will shortly be introduced to the Companies Law, making it easier for investors and entrepreneurs to set up a new company. Parliament adopted the amendments in order to reduce the red tape surrounding company incorporation and encourage investment in the Romanian economy.
The Supreme Court recently considered whether distribution network operators must provide network users with a written cost estimate for a grid connection even if the general obligation to connect final customers to the grid is still in dispute and has yet to be decided by the competent authority. The case has clarified whether a network operator's obligation to provide a cost estimate presupposes that its connection obligation is undisputed or has already been legally established.
With the adoption of the EU General Data Protection Regulation, the EU legislature intended to strengthen the rights of individuals (ie, data subjects or applicants) by giving them greater control over how their personal data is used. Applicants must be informed of the processing of their personal data and be able to verify whether such processing is lawful. Accessing documents is not necessary to achieve that goal. This view is supported by two recent Austrian decisions.
The legality of on-site inspections (also known as dawn raids) carried out by the Office for the Protection of Competition at the premises of betting companies in early 2019 is currently under judicial review. For its part, the office maintains that dawn raids are an efficient tool for investigating possible competition law infringements. Moreover, it recently published an information letter on dawn raids and intervention actions on its website.
In early 2019 the Competition Protection Agency (CPA) imposed a record fine of almost €54 million for a failure to notify a concentration (so-called 'gun jumping'). This is by far the highest fine imposed by the CPA for gun jumping (and in general). As precedent concerning the CPA's practice on gun jumping is scarce, this decision provides important insight into circumstances and criteria that the CPA considers when determining fines in this regard.
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.
CEZ Bulgaria is not for sale. This seems to be the (implicit) conclusion of the Commission on the Protection of Competition's (CPC's) decision prohibiting Eurohold Bulgaria AD's acquisition of all of CEZ Group's Bulgarian assets. The CPC's decision came after a fast-track and in-depth proceeding (Phase II), which ended only 14 days after it was formally opened.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition has published its first leniency decision in a cartel case, following a report by one of the cartel participants. The leniency programme was introduced in 2009 but had yet to yield results. The leniency decision is therefore a watershed moment in the programme's development and signals an improvement in the commission's anti-cartel enforcement record.
From 1 January 2020, Serbia will have a new state aid regime under the new Act on State Aid Control. One of the goals of the new act is to harmonise Serbia's state aid legal framework with EU law, which will help to advance the EU accession process and the implementation of Negotiation Chapter 8 – Competition Policy. Until now, market participants have not focused on compliance with the state aid rules, likely due to a lack of awareness and relatively lenient enforcement; this is expected to change under the new act.
The Higher Administrative Court recently found that the operation of an electric filling station does not constitute the operation of an electricity company and is thus subject to Trade Act. Prior to this decision, the question of whether the act applies to such stations was unclear, as there was no relevant case law and the legal literature was divergent.
The Commission on the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently fined a snack distributor 4% of its annual turnover for the unfair solicitation of customers. The commission relied on its earlier practice to determine whether a promotional campaign launched by the distributor had infringed the Competition Protection Act. This decision is a helpful reminder that in order to avoid competition law violations, companies must carefully consider which prizes to offer in promotional campaigns.
Under Romanian law, the scope and duration of a director's confidentiality obligations must be agreed in the mandate agreement to be concluded between the director and their company. In order to mitigate any risks in this regard, mandate agreements should set out the specific circumstances in which directors can disclose confidential information to their company's parent undertaking or subsidiaries.
Companies often use non-compete agreements to prevent highly skilled employees from using their know-how in favour of competitors following their termination. The Supreme Court recently addressed various questions relating to the compensation paid to employees for post-termination non-compete agreements. This article examines this topic in light of the Supreme Court's recent guidelines and a recent decision which led to debate among practitioners.