SMEs and merger control in the focus of Competition Act amendment

Hungary: The aim of the June 2015 amendment is to develop competition awareness and to set up more detailed procedural rules for the GVH (Hungarian Competition Authority)

New type of sanction for SMEs

The new regulation enables the GVH to issue a warning instead of imposing a fine in the case of first time infringement of competition rules. Additionally, GVH can require SMEs to develop a compliance programme. However, a fine has to be imposed in any case if the SME infringes EU law, if the infringement is price fixing during public procurement proceedings, or market sharing or concerted practices. Infringement involving particularly vulnerable people is also an exception.

Merger control

Since 1 July 2014 the possibility has existed that with the consent of the GVH parties can perform a merger in advance (preliminary-concentration to exercise the right of control) prior to merger authorization. However, application of this regulation left some deficiencies in the procedural rules that the legislator intended to remedy with an amendment in 2015. Thus, the current modification establishes the date, the method and the detailed content of the application (e.g. besides instruments of the right of control, the effect of a preliminary concentration on undertakings must be presented as well as showing that changing competition conditions can be restored). The amendment further clarified that an application for preliminary concentration cannot be based on planned transactions. Therefore, greater focus is being given to prior competition assessment of the merger. Regarding net turnover, in the future the date of application will be relevant.

Access to file

The aim of the amendment is to accelerate and simplify the procedure by the competition authority. Therefore, in order to access protected files to a limited extent, the right holder does not have to give its permission. Protection of undertakings cooperating with the GVH is still ensured: no third party, only other undertakings subject to such proceedings, can have access to leniency applications and leniency notice as well as to settlement.

Agricultural regulation

The amendment restores harmonization with EU law: it became clear that the agricultural cartel exception only applies if it is not subject to EU competition regulation.

Competition infringement in public procurement proceedings

In order to ensure greater control of public procurement the new provisions enable the competent minister to report a presumed infringement to the GVH and, while doing so, to be entitled to provide any available data.

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