On 19 November 2020 the Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition ("CPC") fined Olineza Premium OOD ("Olineza"), one of the biggest Bulgarian food producers, BGN 1,479,040 (approx. EUR 700,000) or 4 % of its 2019 turnover. The fine was imposed for the "misleading use" of the word "homemade" stated on the label of a mayonnaise product, and comes after almost three years of administrative and court proceedings.
Supply chains have been in focus throughout 2020, and not only thanks to COVID-19. Earlier this year, the European Commissioner for Justice, Didier Reynders, announced that in 2021 the Commission would propose legislation on mandatory corporate due diligence covering human rights and environmental risks across a business's supply chain. The discussion around the introduction of a new (harmonised) aspect of corporate accountability comes at a time when certain Member States, including France and the Netherlands, have already adopted their own (national) legislation on mandatory human rights due diligence in recent years.
Across the globe, more and more companies are looking into ways to strengthen their environmental, social and corporate governance ("ESG") profile as investors realise that a strong ESG profile is the key to safeguarding a company's long-term profit and growth. Besides pressure from investors, the importance of sustainability has also been driven by public debate and consumers using spending power to signal their priorities.
The Hungarian Competition Authority ("HCA") is one of the few competition enforcers in Europe with a prominent consumer protection enforcement practice. While consumer protection is not solely within the purview of the HCA in Hungary, the legal framework gives it relative freedom to pull any significant unfair practice that could affect competition under its jurisdiction. The HCA does not shy away from wielding its powers. In fact, some of the leading consumer protection fines in the EU are attributable to it.
Schoenherr has advised Christian Bamberger, SK Capital GmbH, Foxyflo GmbH, Christian Waldheim, and Martin Mrvka on the sale of 100% of shares in Austrian communication-platform-as-a-service companies ATMS, SMS.AT, and WebSMS to Norwegian Link Mobility Holding ASA. AGP Advokater AS and EY Law advised Link Mobiliy on the transaction, which closed on November 16, 2020.
Dentons has advised Umweltbank Aktiengessellschaft, GLS Gemeinschaftsbank EG, and two investment funds managed by Triodos Investment Management on the acquisition of a majority stake in Opportunity Banka a.d. Novi Sad, a Serbian bank, from Opportunity Transformation Investments inc. Andric Law Office provided Serbian advice to the buyers, and Schoenherr reportedly advised Opportunity Transformation Investments.
On 20 March 2015 the Hungarian Competition Authority ("HCA") imposed a staggering fine on Auchan for abusing its significant market power. The HUF 1.06bln (approx. EUR 3m) fine is the highest ever imposed by the authority for the infringement of the Trade Act (Act CLXIV of 2005 on Trade). Although the decision is from 2015, the Hungarian courts put an end to the judicial review only now. The Supreme Court of Hungary has upheld the HCA's decision in its entirety.
Since this spring, the Czech Republic has been struggling with the coronavirus SARS CoV-2. The response to the pandemic in the field of labour law was the creation of the so-called Antivirus programme, which aimed to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic by providing a state-backed financial contribution to salary costs. This should prevent mass redundancies and keep unemployment levels under control. Schemes A to C of the Antivirus programme were created on an ad hoc basis as an immediate response to the negative effects of the pandemic.
The political landscape in the Czech Republic might soon see a change, Schoenherr Partner Vladimir Cizek says, as “the recent regional elections shook the position of the leading party.” Still, he doesn't expect it to have much impact on foreign investment. He notes that previous political changes have not dissuaded investors from coming to the country, and their stream has been constant for decades.
As of 1 September 2020, Hungary closed its borders to non-Hungarian citizens again. The rules abolished the tricolour system of green, yellow and red countries qualifying literally all countries as red. The rules introduced then – by a recent legislative amendment – remain in force until 1 December 2020.
Until 2018 the Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition had never prohibited a concentration. In 2018, however, in consecutive decisions, the CPC prohibited the acquisition of CEZ by Inercom and the acquisition of Nova TV by the investment group PPF. In 2019 two other transactions – Eurohold/CEZ and Emko/Dunarit – were blocked.