The European Antitrust Review 2015 • Section 4: Country chapters
Hungary: Competition Authority
President of the Hungarian Competition Authority
In 2014, the Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) took further steps towards its strategic goals of protecting undistorted competition and enhancing consumer welfare.
Easing the burdens faced by undertakings involved in competition law proceedings and simplifying the proceedings for businesses in all enforcement areas have been important goals of the GVH in its endeavour to make its proceedings as transparent as possible. The changes that have taken place in both the organisational structure of the GVH and in the legislative framework have served this purpose.
The latest amendment of the Hungarian Competition Act was mainly triggered by the experiences the GVH has gained through its law enforcement practice over the last few years. The major changes include the explicit prohibition of the closing of a concentration of undertakings prior to the decision of the GVH authorising the transaction, the introduction of market analysis as an investigative tool, the amendment of the rules on access to files and the introduction of the settlement procedure. These changes entered into force on 1 July 2014. Further amendments affect the rules on remuneration and the promotion of staff in order to ensure predictable and reasonable career prospects for employees of the GVH.
It is of utmost importance for the GVH that its proceedings are predictable. In order to ensure this goal, the GVH published the communication of the Competition Council (the decision-making body within the GVH) on access to the file in competition supervision proceedings. Furthermore, the Competition Council of the GVH regularly publishes the principal statements made in its decisions. These measures facilitate undertakings’ understanding of the practice of the GVH and their compliance with competition law. The GVH has also published a modified version of the Explanatory Notes and the Application Form for Leniency, which were both issued by the president of the Hungarian Competition Authority. These two documents provide more information for cartel members on the application of the leniency rules contained in the Competition Act.
In order to ensure that the most egregious hard-core cartels are effectively investigated, the GVH established a Cartel Detection Section in 2013 entrusted with gathering all necessary information, including through dawn raids, that is needed for the initiation of a case. The bringing of competition supervision proceedings is the task of another newly established unit, the Cartel Investigation Team. Due to these structural changes, cartel enforcement has been accelerated.
Court judgments on the decisions of the GVH provide an important evaluation of its practice; more than 85 pe cent of the final judgments fully confirm the decisions of the GVH. A recent judgment of the Supreme Court of Hungary confirmed the concept of a single continuous infringement applied by the GVH in line with EU law in a particularly important cartel case.
Enhancing its overall effectiveness is an important goal of the GVH which it aims to reach through the adoption of several measures. In recent years, the GVH has made serious efforts to ensure that its proceedings are timely. For this purpose, it has made further changes to its organisational structure through a move towards specialised sections and has introduced a system of prioritisation of complaints. Both of these measures have resulted in considerably shorter proceedings in consumer protection cases and an improvement in merger cases. Furthermore, the GVH actively encourages its case handlers to develop their professional knowledge. The management of the GVH is firmly set on improving the performance of the GVH and is of the view that the personal commitment of the staff is an important factor in this regard. The organisational culture of the GVH was monitored with the aim of exploring staff satisfaction and the wishes of the staff concerning the GVH as an organisation. The survey revealed that the staff are committed to the goals of the GVH and agree with the way in which it functions.
In order to ensure fair competition and the operation of a healthy market, the GVH has extended its cooperation with other relevant authorities. Having already entered into an agreement with the Public Procurement Authority, in 2013, the GVH updated its cooperation agreement with the National Media and Infocommunications Authority. In line with the above aim, the GVH signed a cooperation agreement with the Office of Health Authorisation and Administrative procedures.
The Global Merger Control Index is an index constructed using survey data from legal experts on competition law which compares merger control legislation and implementation in various jurisdictions worldwide. It can serve as a tool in cross-country comparisons of merger control systems. In March 2014, the Center for European Law and Economics published the results of its recent research, which stated that Hungary has the second most efficient overall review system within the European Union. The research showed that the strengths of the Hungarian merger review system are that it is precise, concise, timely, flexible, confidential and transparent.
In addition to its concrete investigations in the field of antitrust, merger and consumer protection, the GVH may conduct sector inquiries. The GVH initiated a sector inquiry on the online room reservation market of the tourism sector. In 2014, the GVH focused on this sector inquiry in addition to the traditional areas of competition law, such as cartel enforcement and the detection of bid-rigging activities, not to mention tasks related to competences concerning consumer protection issues.
President of the Hungarian Competition Authority
Next Chapter: Ireland: Competition Authority