Austria, Schoenherr updates

Corporate Finance/M&A

Contributed by Schoenherr
Supreme Court facilitates financing companies with cross-border business
  • Austria
  • 15 May 2019

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.

Constitutional Court rules on Squeeze-Out Act's compatibility with Constitution
  • Austria
  • 31 October 2018

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.

Privacy-related representations in M&A agreements
  • Austria
  • 09 May 2018

Companies regularly store information about their customers, clients, employees, investors, partners and vendors. Privacy and data security are therefore important aspects of most M&A transactions. Although the risk of non-compliance with privacy laws may result in severe negative consequences, many M&A agreements still lack adequate privacy-related representations and warranties.

ECJ rules on subordinated loans and cross-border mergers
  • Austria
  • 07 September 2016

In 2014 the Austrian Supreme Court submitted a request to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for a preliminary ruling on the interpretation of EU law regarding cross-border mergers. The ECJ recently ruled that in cases of merger by acquisition, all contracts entered into by the transferor company pass to the acquiring company without novation. Thus, the law applicable to the contracts before the merger also applies to the underlying contracts after the merger.


Energy & Natural Resources

Contributed by Schoenherr
New government programme sets course for expansion of renewable energies
  • Austria
  • 24 February 2020

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.

Supreme Court rules on distribution network operators' obligation to connect
  • Austria
  • 23 December 2019

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.

Court rules that electric filling station is not an electricity company
  • Austria
  • 04 November 2019

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.

Flexibility and Storage Market Report 2019
  • Austria
  • 23 September 2019

The information assessed when preparing the latest Flexibility and Storage Market Report on the Austrian gas market suggests that the current competitive situation does not require regulated access to storage facilities. The sufficient availability of storage capacity, customer-oriented product development, market-oriented price formation and offered quantities form a market characterised by competitive pressure.

Amendments bring overall relief to system charges
  • Austria
  • 06 May 2019

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.


Environment & Climate Change

Contributed by Schoenherr
New opportunities for renewable energy: Austrian government programme 2020 to 2024
  • Austria
  • 24 February 2020

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.

Response to ECJ decision on measuring air pollutants
  • Austria
  • 03 February 2020

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.

Electric vehicles exempt from emissions-reducing speed limits
  • Austria
  • 18 March 2019

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.

Parliament adopts comprehensive environmental package
  • Austria
  • 12 November 2018

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.

Will new state targets lead to reduced environmental protection?
  • Austria
  • 03 September 2018

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.


Insurance

Contributed by Schoenherr
New unified cancellation right for insurance contracts brings legal certainty
  • Austria
  • 26 March 2019

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.

FMA publishes new circulars concerning PRIIPS and remuneration policies
  • Austria
  • 13 March 2018

The Financial Market Authority (FMA) recently published a new circular concerning key information documents for packaged retail and insurance-based investment products. The FMA had already published a revised version of its circular on sound remuneration policies and practices on January 19 2018.


Projects & Procurement

Contributed by Schoenherr
The time has come: Federal Procurement Act 2018 just around the corner
  • Austria
  • 12 June 2018

More than four years after the entry into force of the new EU Public Procurement Directive, more than two years after the deadline for transposition and more than one year after publication of the first transposition draft, the time has come. Following the resolutions of the Council of Ministers and the Federal Council, it can be assumed that the Federal Procurement Act 2018 will enter into force by July 2018.

Imminent implementation of public procurement directives
  • Austria
  • 21 March 2017

Almost one year after the two-year transition period of the EU directives on public procurement law expired, Austria published a consultation draft of the new Federal Procurement Act 2017 to implement the directives. While Austria took a somewhat conservative approach when implementing the directives, there are some areas where the Austrian draft for the transposition of the directives is significantly stricter than the directives themselves.

Court rules on rights in environmental impact assessment
  • Austria
  • 17 January 2017

The Federal Administrative Court recently addressed whether the party to a winning project in a conflict procedure was entitled to claim rights in the environmental impact assessment for the inferior project. The court ruled that, on the one hand, the legal standing of a party in a conflict procedure is not strictly restricted to that procedure. On the other hand, the court found that being party to a conflict procedure does not guarantee unlimited legal standing in the approval procedure of the other project.

Procurement thresholds increased until 2018
  • Austria
  • 08 November 2016

The regulation increasing the Procurement Act's thresholds has been extended for a further two years. Thus, contracting public authorities can continue to benefit from the significantly wider application of the direct award procedure and the so-called 'restricted procedure without prior publication' until 2018. However, contracting authorities should be aware that the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union may still require an ex ante notice for contracts of a certain cross-border interest.

Austria fails to implement new procurement directives in time
  • Austria
  • 03 May 2016

The two-year transition period for implementing the new EU directives on public procurement recently lapsed. While the majority of member states have at least partially implemented the directives, Austria has yet to pass draft legislation transposing any of them. However, despite this, the directives (at least in significant parts) already apply in Austria and individuals can – either directly or indirectly – rely on the majority of the provisions therein.