The COVID-19 outbreak has become a new type of challenge for the entire world. The conditions of everyday life and day-to-day business operations have fundamentally changed as countries have gone under lockdown, economies have been shut almost entirely down and global supply chains torn to pieces.
“To be honest, I think the government handled the crisis as well as possible," says Levente Csengery, Partner at KCG Partners. “The COVID-19 regulations do exactly what they’re supposed to – protect public health and keep us all alive, and they’re working.“ At the time of writing, Hungary has had 3535 confirmed cases (and 460 deaths) from the new coronavirus.
Just a few days after the entry into force of the special tax on retailers (effective as of 1 May 2020), which may amount to as much as 2.5% of their annual turnover, the Hungarian Government further tightened the rules on the distribution of food products by significantly restricting traders' freedom to negotiate purchase prices.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) has imposed a record fine on Booking.com for committing unfair commercial practices by misleadingly advertising certain hotel rooms with "free cancellation", as well as for pressure selling. The authority has also banned the company from applying these practices as of 2021.
The coronavirus epidemic has shown that implementing appropriate occupational safety and health measures and providing adequate conditions are essential in all sectors regardless of the activity. After the coronavirus outbreak, the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA) had published a guidance for the workplace. Now, a couple of month later, at the end of April 2020, the EU-OSHA issued guidance on coming back to work. The goal of these non-binding guidelines is to help employers and workers to stay safe and healthy in a working environment that has been changed significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the end of April 2020, the Hungarian Government submitted to the Parliament a bill on the termination of the undivided joint ownership on agricultural lands and the clarification of the data of the rightholders of properties deemed agricultural land in the land registry, aiming at the establishment of a clear and transparent land ownership structure.
Balazs Sahin-Toth, Counsel in the Budapest office of Allen & Overy, working pro bono in conjunction with Peter Gardos from Hungary's Gardos Mosonyi Tomori Law Firm and Hungarian solo practitioners Adel Kegye and Eleonora Hernadi, has persuaded the Hungarian Supreme Court to uphold the lower court's decision that the Hungarian segregation of Roma students between 2003 and 2017 provided a lower level of education.
The Hungarian Government introduced two special taxes from 1 May 2020 in order to tackle the financial effects of the coronavirus disease: the special tax on credit institutions and the tax on commercial chains. According to the official communication of the Ministry of Finance „the goal is that the burden of these taxes – that contribute to the improvement of the balance of public finances – are borne not by the consumers but by the actors that are capable of such.”
Hungary announced and successfully notified to the European Commission a HUF 50 billion (approximately EUR 140 million) aid scheme in April 2020. The subsidy to improve competitiveness has been designed to help the medium-sized and large enterprises that are active in the manufacturing or business services sector that face difficulties due to loss of income and liquidity resulting from the economic impact of the pandemic.
With in-store shopping often relegated to a secondary role, online forms of trading have come to the fore of late. Nowadays, merchants that don’t adopt web commerce solutions alongside or instead of their physical stores can find themselves at a distinct disadvantage in the market. It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that besides implementing various IT developments and having to organise home deliveries, running a webshop requires some major preparatory work in the legal area as well.
The focus today is on the COVID-19 world epidemic, and the special legal orders implemented by the affected countries. While Hungary has also adopted numerous extraordinary and temporary measures in this respect, attention must also be drawn to legislative developments which are not related to the coronavirus. The Parliament has recently adopted a new act which amends the Hungarian Competition Act ("Competition Act") and brings numerous changes to Hungarian competition law.
The Hungarian Government has established a so-called Economy Protection Action Plan in order to respond to the economic situation caused by coronavirus. One of the main pillars of this Action Plan is a state aid for employees for the purpose of retaining workforce set out in Government Decree No. 105/2020 (“State Aid”). As a response to the criticism made by several employers addressed to the criteria for application and granting the state aid, the legal regulations has been recently modified by the Government Decree No. 141/2020.