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The GVH fines solar battery producers for cartel activity

The Gazdasági Versenyhivatal (the Hungarian Competition Authority, GVH) established that five undertakings had infringed competition law when they shared 26 EU funded projects among themselves relating to the production of solar power systems. It granted one of the undertakings a fine reduction of 30% due to its active cooperation during the investigation, and imposed fines totalling more than 81 million HUF (cca 253,000 EUR) on the other cartel participants, which is the maximum legal amount that can be imposed.

Undertakings and municipalities were allowed to claim non-refundable subsidies for the development of energetic systems in the framework of the “Environment and Energy Operative Programme” published by the Ministry of National Development. Claimants were required to obtain at least three price bids for the implementation of the projects. The investigation of the GVH found that Alter Energetikai Iroda Tudományos, Szolgáltató Bt., Megújuló Energiapark Kutatóközpont Kft., Új Irány Energetika Kft., LKM.HU Service Kft. and Havrilla-Ép ÉpítÅ‘ipari Szolgáltató Kft. had coordinated the price offers that they submitted to the claimants concerning the implementation of the solar power systems.

Evidence of the violations was found by the GVH among the electronic data that was seized from the undertakings participating in the cartel. On the basis of this evidence the GVH established that in each case Alter Bt. and Megújuló Kft. (both belonging to the same group of undertakings) had also prepared the bids of their competitors, in a manner that ensured that their own bids would be the most favourable.

Consequently, the GVH established the violation and imposed fines amounting to the maximum legal amount on the undertakings, corresponding to 10% of the net turnover achieved in the previous business year of the undertakings. However, in the framework of the settlement procedure the GVH reduced the possible maximum legal amount of the fine by 30% for Havrilla Kft, as the undertaking acknowledged the infringement and waived its right to seek a legal remedy.

According to the settlement procedure, the GVH may reduce the fine to be imposed by 10-30% if the undertaking under investigation admits the infringement on the basis of the revealed evidence; moreover, it must also waive its right to extensive access to files, to make a statement, to a hearing and to seek a legal remedy. This procedure facilitates the conclusion of the proceeding in a more rapid and less resource intensive manner. The settlement procedure may result in significant cost savings, not only for the competition authority but also for the undertaking concerned.

Case number: Vj/41/2016.

Budapest, 25 April 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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The GVH imposes fines on battery producers for their participation in a cartel

The Gazdasági Versenyhivatal (the Hungarian Competition Authority, GVH) established that the former producers of Energizer, Duracell and Varta batteries had been engaged in a conduct that infringed competition law for a period of 10 years when they coordinated their practices in order to pass the waste management fees of their portable batteries and accumulators onto their customers. The GVH imposed fines of more than thirty million HUF (cca 90,000 EUR) on the producers after taking into account their active cooperation during the investigation.

The investigation of the GVH revealed that in 2005 the battery producers concerned had agreed to pass the waste management fees that had been introduced around that time onto their customers as a separate cost element. As a consequence, the producers in full agreement passed the entire waste management fees onto their customers, thereby excluding competition among themselves in respect of this cost element. The fines were imposed based solely on the identified agreement relating to the waste management fees, as it was not established during the investigation that the producers had also agreed to fix the prices of their batteries.

Due to the cooperation of the producers the GVH significantly reduced the amount of the fines that it could lawfully impose: the producer of Energizer batteries and the former producer of Duracell batteries, Procter & Gamble, acknowledged the infringement by submitting a leniency application and providing the required supporting evidence. The GVH waived the fine that would have been imposed on Energizer and halved the fine of Procter & Gamble. In addition, Procter & Gamble and the former producer of Varta batteries, Spectrum Brands Hungaria Kft, accepted the GVH’s statement of facts and waived their right to seek a legal remedy in the framework of the settlement procedure, thereby contributing to the rapid conclusion of the procedure. Spectrum Brands received a further reduction of its fine as it undertook to further develop its compliance programme in order to avoid future infringements.

Case number: Vj/43/2015.

Budapest, 18 April 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

Printable version in PDF

The GVH will assess the operation of digital comparison tools in the framework of a market analysis

The Gazdasági Versenyhivatal (the Hungarian Competition Authority, GVH) launches a market analysis in order to explore the specific market developments relating to the application of digital comparison tools (websites and mobile-applications) and their effects on the decision making of consumers.

In its mid-term digital consumer protection strategy that was published last year, the GVH stated that it wants to become more familiar with the impact that digital comparison tools (which are ever-increasing and becoming more and more popular) have on consumer decision making.

The use of comparison tools can contribute to more informed consumer decision making and transparency, thereby also enhancing competition in the market. However, it is important that consumers are given appropriate information when using these tools, for instance:

  • true information relating to the compared prices and the characteristics of the products;

  • the criteria that are taken into account when comparisons are made and classifications are allocated;

  • how their data are used as part of the business models of undertakings; and

  • who the operators of the concerned digital comparison tools are.

In course of its market analysis the GVH will assess, in addition to assessing consumer expectations, habits and experiences in relation to the use of digital comparison tools, the following:

  • the extent to which the operators of these tools are aware of the legal requirements concerning fair commercial practices towards consumers and the degree to which they comply with these requirements;

  • how and why these tools have changed in both their content and appearance;

  • what business models are behind them; and

  • the types of communication activities carried out by their operators.

During its analysis, the GVH will focus on those sectors where consumers may have high search costs, where such tools are widely applied by consumers, where there are few competing tools on the market, and where the comparison services are accompanied by intensive communication. The GVH intends to primarily examine the websites and related applications that are accessible on the markets of retail trade, accommodation reservation and travel services, as well as financial and insurance services.

In the framework of the market analysis, the GVH will examine and evaluate the operation of the examined market and the development of market trends and market processes as well as their effects on competition and business partners, with special regard to consumers. To achieve this goal the GVH will primarily make use of publicly available market information and the voluntary consultations and responses to requests it receives from concerned market participants. The GVH will summarise the results, facts and findings of the market analysis in a report that will be published on its website.

Comments from all stakeholders relating to this market analysis can be sent to the following email address: The announcement on the launching of the market analysis, which includes the planned timing of the analysis, is available on the GVH’s website in Hungarian.

Budapest, 28 March 2019

Hungarian Competition Authority


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


 

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Further information:
GVH Customer Service
Tel: +36 1 472-8851
Email:
http://www.gvh.hu

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 PihenÅ‘ 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

Printable version in PDF

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

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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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