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Behaviour of online hotel booking sites once again in focus

In the last few days, the British Competition Authority (CMA) confirmed that it had accepted the commitments of six online hotel booking sites, according to which the sites undertook to refrain from engaging in certain commercial practices. In Hungary, the Hungarian Competition Authority (Gazdasági Versenyhivatal – GVH) currently has an ongoing competition supervision proceeding against the operator of the online hotel booking site, Booking.com B.V.

Last year, the GVH terminated its competition supervision proceeding against Airbnb with the acceptance of commitments. The Irish company, which operates an online accommodation marketplace, undertook to modify its communications to consumers regarding its charges in order to ensure that consumers receive sufficient and appropriate information when searching for accommodation.

The CMA has taken enforcement action against six significant online hotel booking sites, as a result of serious concerns relating to the commercial practices of these sites; the commercial practices in question comprised pressure selling, misleading discount claims, the effect that commission has on how hotels are ordered on sites, and hidden charges. The CMA accepted the commitments offered by the sites and the procedure was therefore terminated. Consequently, since 1 September the operators of the sites have ceased to apply the unfair commercial actions that were subject to the procedure of the CMA.

In Hungary, the ongoing proceeding against Booking.com was initiated due to the suspected application of pressure selling by the operator of the site (via statements such as ‘32 customers are looking at the same hotel as you’ or ‘another person is considering booking a room at this accommodation’). These statements may give the impression that the available places are selling quickly, thus exerting psychological pressure on consumers and thereby possibly restricting consumers’ freedom of choice or ability to make a well-founded decision.

Furthermore, the GVH is investigating whether reservations made on the booking.com website can in fact be cancelled without any expense, as advertised by the operator of the site (e.g. on television advertisements or in newsletters). The GVH is also assessing whether the operator has exercised the required level of professional care as far as the possibility of ‘free cancellation’ is concerned, as the suitability to track these options of the online booking site is not obvious.

The proceeding is also investigating whether the operator has exercised the required level of professional care when displaying the offers of Hungarian accommodation providers on the www.booking.com website and on the Booking.com application, in particular concerning the display of the Széchenyi Pihenő Kártya as a payment method, and whether it prioritises the ads of certain accommodation providers thereby influencing the consumer decisions.

The initiation of the competition supervision proceeding by the GVH does not mean that the undertaking in question has in fact committed the alleged infringement. The aim of the proceeding is to clarify the facts and to demonstrate the alleged infringement. The time frame for the proceeding is three months, which in justified cases may be extended twice by two months each time.

Case number: Vj/17/2018.

 21 February 2019 Budapest

 Hungarian Competition Authority

 

Information for the press:
sajto@gvh.hu
http://www.gvh.hu

Further information:
GVH Customer Service
Tel: (+36-1) 472-8851
E-mail:
http://www.gvh.hu

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MediaMarkt to acquire control over the consumer electronics retail sector in Tesco’s nine stores

The Hungarian Competition Authority (Gazdasági Versenyhivatal, GVH) established that MediaMarkt’s acquisition of control over Tesco’s consumer electronics retail sector would not harmfully affect competition.

After the concentration Media Markt Retail Cooperation Kereskedelmi Kft. will operate as an independent undertaking, specialising in the sale of consumer electronic goods (so called “shop-in-shop”) within the sales area of the stores of Tesco Global Zrt in 9 locations (Budapest, Veszprém, Sopron, Baja, Esztergom, Szekszárd, Dunaújváros, Kaposvár, and Tatabánya).

The GVH examined the potential competitive effects of the concentration in the consumer electronics retail sector on the national market and also on the involved cities; in order to do so the GVH also acquired information from the other market participants in the Hungarian market. After undertaking its analysis the GVH concluded that the market concentration after the acquisition of control would not be significant enough to distort competition either nationally or locally. In its decision the GVH also considered the possible benefits of the concentration, in particular the benefits for consumers (e.g. greater choice of products, improvement of consumer services).

Case number: VJ/34/2018

 

25 January 2019, Budapest

 

Hungarian Competition Authority

 

Information for the press:
sajto@gvh.hu
http://www.gvh.hu

Further information:
GVH Customer Service
Tel: (+36-1) 472-8851
E-mail:
http://www.gvh.hu

 Printable version in PDF

Another competition supervision proceeding launched as a result of the Black Friday sales of an undertaking

In line with its Digital Consumer Protection Strategy the Hungarian Competition Authority aims to respond effectively to the challenges presented by new markets.  The GVH has initiated an investigation due to the latest Black Friday sales promotion activity on the eMAG webshop. It is alleged that this conduct infringed the prohibition of unfair commercial practices against consumers.

The Hungarian Competition Authority (Gazdasági Versenyhivatal: hereinafter GVH) has initiated a competition supervision proceeding against the operator of the webshop, namely, S.C. Dante International S.A. It is alleged that the undertaking in question failed to adequately set and monitor the conditions, prices and discounts of its Black Friday sales promotion in november 2018. The GVH also suspects that the undertaking failed to stock the appropriate amount of goods necessary to meet the expected demand during the sales period. It is alleged that during the sales period the undertaking infringed the prohibition of unfair commercial practices against consumers due to its failure to meet the requirements of professional diligence.

According to the websites’ own estimates (only available in Hungarian), on the day of Black Friday the website of eMAG had 2.7 million unique visitors, with orders totalling HUF 6.8 billion. Consequently, the alleged distortion of consumer decision-making may have had wide-ranging negative implications for competitive processes.

The GVH has recently been paying special attention to unfair commercial practices concerning the digital and data-based economy, and within this framework it very closely monitors the content appearing on online market places and communication channels. The Digital Consumer Protection Strategy of the GVH is available on its website.

The initiation of the competition supervision proceeding does not mean that the undertaking in question has in fact committed the alleged infringement. The aim of the proceeding is to clarify the facts and to demonstrate the alleged infringement. The time frame for the proceeding is three months, which in justified cases may be extended twice by two months each time.

Case number: Vj/50/2018.

Budapest, 10 January 2019

Hungarian Competition Authority

 

Information for the press:
sajto@gvh.hu
http://www.gvh.hu

Further information:
GVH Customer Service

Tel: (+36-1) 472-8851
E-mail:
http://www.gvh.hu

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Total fine of more than 100 million forints imposed on well drilling companies for participation in a cartel

The Hungarian Competition Authority (Gazdasági Versenyhivatal, GVH) imposed fines amounting to a total of 105 million forints (0.33 million EUR)  on four water welling companies for entering into an agreement aimed at restricting competition in public procurement procedures.

The GVH conducted competition supervision proceedings against Vikuv Vízkutató és Fúró Zrt., Aquazit Szolgáltató Kft., Drillingwater Kft. és a Geo-Sivo Építőipari, and Környezetvédelmi Tervező és Kivitelező Kft. The GVH established that the four companies had divided among themselves public procurement tenders relating to well drilling, restoration and utilisation in certain cities. In order to achieve this goal, the undertakings entered into an anti-competitive agreement with one another; furthermore, they co-ordinated their bids in advance and agreed on the winner of each tender.

Three of the concerned undertaking, namely Vikuv, Aquazit and Drillingwater, did not deny that the agreement had been concluded; however, they claimed that in practice Aquazit and Drillingwater belonged to the Vikuv group and that therefore their co-operation could not have infringed the prohibition against the restriction of competition. The GVH, after considering all of the arguments and evidence put forward by the companies, did not accept their standpoint, as the undertakings could not prove that Vikuv legally exercised full and permanent control over the two other undertaking. In its decision, the GVH’s therefore qualified the parties to the agreement as independent, colluding undertakings.

Furthermore, it was established that in relation to the procurement tender of Kengyel village, Vikuv, in addition to submitting its own bid, also prepared the bid of Geo-Sivo Kft, which it set at a higher level in order to ensure that the former would win the tender. Additionally, the third bidder, Aquazit, also submitted a higher, so-called supporting bid, in order to guarantee that Vikuv would win the bid.

Bid rigging is a very serious offence and in certain cases it may have criminal consequences. The GVH imposed the maximum fine possible under the provisions of the Hungarian Competition Act on all four undertakings.

Case number: Vj/111/2015.

19 December 2018, Budapest

Hungarian Competition Authority

 

Information for the press:
sajto@gvh.hu
http://www.gvh.hu

Further information:
GVH Customer Service
Tel: (+36-1) 472-8851
E-mail:
http://www.gvh.hu

Printable version in PDF

Vodafone to refund several million forints to the subscribers of RED VitaMAX as a result of the GVH’s procedure

The Hungarian Competition Authority (Gazdasági Versenyhivatal, GVH) approved the commitments undertaken by Vodafone Magyarország Zrt. In accordance with the submitted commitments, Vodafone will reimburse the balances that were deleted due to a change of tariff to those subscribers who switched between 1 November 2012 and 1 May 2014 to RED VitaMAX tariffs from their previous tariff packages.

The GVH in its competition supervision proceeding investigated whether Vodafone had infringed the provisions of the Act on the Prohibition of Unfair Commercial Practices against Consumers through its advertisements promoting RED VitaMAX tariffs, as these advertisements did not make it clear that the 30-day balance usage period, which is much shorter than the average, applies not only to balances after a change of tariff but also to previously accumulated outstanding balances. The company undertook to refund the deleted outstanding balances to all of those customers who were disadvantaged by the above-mentioned rule, provided the balances of the customers exceeded the amount of HUF 100 and they are still subscribers of Vodafone.

The GVH – without establishing the existence or non-existence of an infringement – accepted the commitments of Vodafone, as it considered that through the fulfilment of these commitments the affected consumers could be fully compensated. The reimbursement of amounts less than HUF 100 was considered unessential due to the minor disadvantage that would be suffered and the administrative burden it would impose. Furthermore, the compensation of non-Vodafone subscribers – due to the difficulty to find the previous subscribers and their negligible number – was not sufficiently justified. As no infringement was established, the GVH did not impose a fine on the company.

Case number: Vj/15/2018.

18 December 2018, Budapest

Hungarian Competition Authority

 

Information for the press:
sajto@gvh.hu
http://www.gvh.hu

Further information:
GVH Customer Service:

Phone:  (+36-1) 472-8851
E-mail:
http://www.gvh.hu

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Nóra Váczi, a member of the Competition Council, has been named as one of the ‘40 in their 40s Notable Women Competition Professionals in Europe, the Americas and Africa’

Nóra Váczi, a member of the Competition Council of the GVH, has been recognised as one of the ‘40 in their 40s Notable Women Competition Professionals in Europe, the Americas and Africa’ in the enforcement category by the W@Competition. In order to be awarded this title, applicants from Europe, the Americas and Africa could apply to a number of categories, such as enforcement, judiciary and policy, in-house, private practice, economics and academia by submitting their professional curriculum vitae. A jury composed of prominent competition law professionals decided which applicants were deemed worthy of being award the title of  ‘40 in their 40s Notable Women Competition Professionals in Europe, the Americas and Africa’.

It is a great honour that Nóra was selected to be among this list of 40 outstanding women, which is comprised of well accomplished women in the field of competition law, for instance, as heads of competition authorities (including, among others, the presidents of the French and Portugal competition authorities), judges and other competition law experts.

The W@Competition organisation promotes the more active participation of women in competition law. The organisation operates an online database of women working in competition law, organises events with women presenters, maintains a competition law blog and aims to make it easier for its members to interact with each other.

We would like to congratulate Nóra on this achievement, and for thereby promoting the prestige of the GVH. We wish her all the best for her work here at the Authority!

For further information: Click Here


The notification of a concentration can now also be filed electronically

Pursuant to Article 43/J (1) of the Hungarian Competition Act, the form for the notification of a concentration published on the website of the Hungarian Competition Authority (“Gazdasági Versenyhivatal” hereinafter: GV) may be submitted electronically.

A notification of a concentration can be filed electronically on the customised platform (Személyreszabott Ügyintézési Felület, SZÜF) of the governmental website using the electronic iForm application filing programme. In case of electronic submission the notification form shall be attached to the iForm application form.

The iForm programme can be accessed on SZÜF: HERE (available only in Hungarian)

The GVH emphasises that the size of the enclosed files in the iForm programme cannot exceed 20MB. If the attachment exceeds 20MB the notification of a concentration can only be filed in person or via postal services.

Further assistance concerning the electronic filing system can be downloaded in PDF format: HERE

Please note that this document is available on our webpage for information purposes only and the notification of a concentration can be submitted only in Hungarian (see here).


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