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.
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.
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.
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.
Following a Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) decision that its rebate system violated the Trade Act, retail chain Spar went all the way to the Supreme Court. All judicial forums upheld the HCA's decision and the illegality of such rebates seemed to be settled. However, the Budapest Metropolitan Court recently overturned another HCA decision, which was somewhat surprising considering that the Supreme Court had already upheld the HCA's decision in the relatively similar Spar.
The European Commission has proposed to implement a directive on work-life balance for parents and carers which aims to increase the number of dual-earning families and help women return to work, while also requiring more flexibility from employers. Should the proposed directive enter into force, it will set minimum standards regarding parental and carer leave and will thus bring about considerable change for the Hungarian employment and social systems.
Hungarian law generally requires employers to justify the termination of an employment relationship, and economic grounds generally serve as valid grounds for dismissal. A recent Supreme Court case clearly shows that even when an employer has a rightful interest in dismissing certain employees for economic grounds, the justification of the dismissal must be formulated correctly in accordance with the law. Otherwise, employers may have difficulties protecting themselves in court.
With the constant development and advancement of digital technologies, the use of paper-based documents is gradually decreasing in all areas of life. This trend has inevitably affected the employment sector, as both employers and employees have an increasing need to reduce the volume of paper-based documents used in employment relationships. At the same time, the use of electronic documents has raised several practical questions.
The Supreme Court recently issued a reasoned opinion on certain legal and procedural aspects of employment-related suits involving equal treatment claims. The reasoned opinion addresses, among other things, the interpretation of the burden of proof in such suits, the equal pay principle, the concept of discrimination based on other grounds and the way of hearing and deciding anti-discrimination claims in suits initiated on the grounds of unlawful dismissal.
Employers are often frustrated by employees' incapacity to work for health reasons, but they must act with care when addressing such situations. In an attempt to protect employee interests, legal regulations provide certain restrictions on what employers can do if an employee is unable to work for health reasons. A recent Supreme Court decision has further clarified some of these restrictions.
The government is supporting a range of projects to achieve its 2020 renewable energy targets, including Hungary's first small-scale geothermal power plant and an e-mobility action plan. Alongside these sector and project-specific incentives is the mandatory feed-in tariff system – an overall system of incentives for renewable energy intended to subsidise electricity that is produced from renewable, waste and co-generated energy.
Trademark owners often allege infringement of both the Trademark Act and the Act on the Prohibition of Unfair Market Behaviour in enforcement proceedings. However, the application of competition law in registration (ie, opposition) proceedings, as demonstrated in a recent case, is new to Hungarian case law. The legal basis for this case law is Section 5(2)(a) of the Trademark Act, which allows the Metropolitan Tribunal to link claims to other laws, including competition law.
The applicant in a recent case filed an application to register a device mark which featured the name 'Stowasser.J'. Two parties filed observations against the mark and the Association of Manufacturers of Music Instruments filed an opposition. However, the Metropolitan Tribunal held that as the observers were not named Stowasser, they could not contest the applicant's use of the name. The case also addressed the infringement of a deceased person's name where this will damage their reputation.
In a recent decision, the Hungarian Intellectual Property Office examined only one part of the opponent's claims before rejecting them in their entirety. As such, its decision was incomplete in respect of the claims relating to unfair market behaviour, even though the parties were genuine competitors. However, the Metropolitan Tribunal remedied this error by basing its decision on Section 5(2)(a) of the Trademark Act, which relates to other branches of law, including competition law.
Although unable to find a precedent in Hungarian case law, the Metropolitan Tribunal was still able to arrive at a convincing decision in a recent case involving a licensee's use of a mark which had been registered before the plaintiff's similar mark. Surprisingly, the plaintiff not only continued the litigation after recognising that the defendant was a licensee of the proprietor of a prior mark, but also filed an appeal.
Brand owners often distort descriptive terms or generic names in order to register them as trademarks. Whether they succeed depends on the level of difference between the two terms. A recent Metropolitan Tribunal opinion in this regard was supported by the EU General Court's judgment in Doublemint, according to which a word's descriptive character must be material in respect of the relevant goods and enable the public to immediately recognise the characteristics of such goods.