I. To the court
Proceedings before a court under Act LVII of 1996 on the Prohibition of Unfair and Restrictive Market Practices (Hungarian Competition Act)
There are cases where, despite the fact that the problem you raise is contrary to the provisions of Act LVII of 1996 on the Prohibition of Unfair and Restrictive Market Practices (hereinafter: Competition Act), it does not fall within the competence of the Hungarian Competition Authority but of the court. Accordingly, the court carries out the investigation of conduct contrary to Chapter II (Article 2-7) of the Competition Act. While Articles 3-7 of the Act set out the specific facts of the case, Article 2 provides an opportunity for the court to investigate previously unknown conduct that may violate the fairness of competition.
The general clause in the aforementioned Article 2 and the facts of the case named in Article 3-7 are as follows:
- engagement in economic activity which infringes or jeopardises the legitimate interests of competitors, trading parties (in particular customers, buyers, recipients or users) or which is contrary to the requirements of business integrity (Article 2);
- injuring or jeopardising the reputation or credibility of competitors by making or spreading false allegations, by falsifying facts or by other practices (Article 3);
- making unfair appeals to other persons with the intention of disrupting existing economic relationships with third parties or preventing the creation of such relationships (call for a boycott Article 5);
- manufacturing, distributing or advertising a product or service without the consent of a competitor with a characteristic presentation, packaging, sign (including designation of origin) or denomination or using a name, indication or other sign by which a competitor or its products or services are usually recognised (imitation, Article 6);
- making any statement or communication with the purpose of promoting the sale or the use in any other manner than sale, of products, services, forces of nature that can be exploited as property, real estate, securities, financial instruments or intangible assets (hereinafter collectively: goods), or in connection with this purpose, promoting the name, sign or activities of the undertaking, or raising awareness of the goods or brand name which, explicitly or by implication, identifies a competitor of the undertaking or goods produced, distributed or introduced by a competitor with intended use identical or similar to that of the goods presented (hereinafter: comparative advertising), if
- this may result in any unfair advantage derived from the reputation of the competitor or the name, goods, indication and other sign of such competitor;
- this may harm the reputation of the competitor or the name, goods, indication or other sign of such competitor;
- it presents goods as imitations or replicas of other goods bearing a trade mark or other protected sign;
- it may result in market participants mistaking the undertaking for its competitor or the name, goods, indication or other sign of the undertaking with those of a competitor. (Article 6/A para (1))
- no agreement or set of rules established in the framework of self-regulation in the market which sets rules of conduct in respect of a commercial practice or sector for those undertakings that have accepted such rules as binding on themselves (hereinafter: code of conduct) shall promote any conduct in violation of paragraph (1). The person responsible for the drafting of the code of conduct as well as the person designated in the code of conduct as being responsible for its revision and for monitoring compliance with it, shall be liable for any violation of this provision. (Article 6/A para (2));
- in case of the infringement of the fairness of competition in any bidding process — in particular in respect of competitive tenders —, auctions or stock exchange transactions, where these practices are not regulated by any other provision of this Act or by a specific other act. (Article 7)
To the court in civil litigation
The competence of the Hungarian Competition Authority does not extend to the conclusion, amendment, termination, validity or legal effects of an individual contract between parties, nor to the performance of the provisions of the contract or to civil law claims arising from non-performance or in connection with commercial practices, including any claims for damages, as such matters fall under the jurisdiction of the court.
Prior to court proceedings, in cases specified by law, it is possible to turn to:
- an arbitration body or
- a mediator.
The contact details of the arbitration bodies and the list of mediators, as well as more information on their activities, can be found on the following websites:
- The list of county arbitration bodies is available: HERE
- In matters affecting financial markets, the Financial Arbitration Board is available: HERE
- The list of mediators is available: HERE
In the case of certain quality objections related to non-public service products, services, service activities and traders’ activities, there is typically no specific authority that has the competence to act; consequently, you may turn to arbitration, mediation, arbitration, or ultimately to the court.
II. To other authorities
When should you turn to another authority?
Complaints, certain disputes and objections can be resolved primarily by the concerned service providers and traders, i.e. market participants. Therefore, before turning to an authority, contact the company concerned with the complaint or ask for the register of complaints, as this will enable consumer comments to be brought to the attention of the centre of the chain of stores or of the service provider’s network. In the event that this does not lead to a result, it is also possible to turn to a mediator or an arbitration forum that is specialised in settling individual disputes.
There are many types of disputes in economic life, and there are often cases where an authority other than the Hungarian Competition Authority has the competence to act.
The following section lists some cases and situations where an authority other than the Hungarian Competition Authority is entitled to conduct the proceeding. In addition to the complaints listed, the name of the competent authority or other body is given in brackets.
In the case of complaints concerning public procurement and other tenders
- violation of the procedural rules contained in the legal provisions on public procurement (Public Procurement Arbitration Committee);
- objections related to the announcement and execution of tenders that do not fall within the scope of public procurement(court).
Electronic communications services
- inadequate billing practices of an electronic communications service provider in the case of individual subscribers (order and handling of invoice complaints by a service provider, content of the invoice) (capital and county government office acting in the field of consumer protection);
- improper operation of the customer service department of an electronic communications service provider and the handling of complaints in the case of individual subscribers (capital and county government office acting in the field of consumer protection);
- cases where the improper billing practice, complaint handling and improper operation of the customer service department of an electronic communications service provider arise in relation to a business subscriber (National Media- and Infocommunications Authority);
- an objection concerning the fulfilment of the general terms and conditions of an electronic communications service provider or the quality of an electronic communications service (National Media- and Infocommunications Authority);
- unilateral amendment of the contract of an electronic communications service provider and the inadequacy of the provided information relating to this (National Media- and Infocommunications Authority, and with regard to the deadline for information and the content according to the decree of the President of the National Media- and Infocommunications Authority, the capital and county government office acting within the competence of consumer protection in the absence of a substantial effect on economic competition);
- in the case of a conduct or measure adopted by a service provider within the scope of the provision of an electronic communications service, which may harm the interests of a significant number of subscribers (Commissioner for Media and Communications).
Electricity and gas service
- in the case of the handling of consumer complaints related to the settling, invoicing, payment of fees, gas metering, suspension or disconnection of a user from the electricity and gas supply due to late payment, or the re-connection of a user to the supply after the repayment of a debt and customer service proceedings (capital and county government office acting in the field of consumer protection);
- in the case of the handling of public users’ complaints related to the settling, invoicing, payment of fees, gas metering, suspension or disconnection of a user from the electricity and gas supply due to late payment, or the re-connection of a user to the supply after the repayment of a debt and customer service proceedings (Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (HEA));
- consumer complaints related to quality, such as the calorific value of gas, the frequency level of electricity, and the resulting damages, the quality of the service and disputes arising from damage to the meter, in case of illegal consumption (Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (HEA)).
District heating service
- the price of district heating, the fee for district heating services (heating and domestic hot water) provided to residential users and separately managed institutions - as the highest administrative price - the structure of the administrative price and the conditions of its application are established by the Ministerial Decree, and thus, in the event of a breach of its provisions (Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (HEA));
- monitoring compliance with the general business rules of the district heating service provider (notary of a local government, chief notary of a capital municipality);
- making available general business rules containing detailed rules for satisfying user demand and district heating services, and the obligation of the district heating provider to provide information about the technical economic conditions of user consumption and the amount of the connection fee (capital and county government office acting in the field of consumer protection);
- suspension of the service due to maintenance and renovation (capital and county government office acting in the field of consumer protection);
- in connection with the metering, settlement and payment of fees in the case of a fee-paying residential user or natural person (capital and county government office acting in the field of consumer protection), in the case of public users (Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (HEA)).
Objections related to the notification and authorisation of postal services, the keeping of up-to-date registers as required by law, the control of postal services and their quality (e.g., recorded delivery or its return after an unreasonably long time), in connection with the official and market supervision of the postal services market and in the case of control of the general terms and conditions of the postal service (National Media- and Infocommunications Authority).
Water utility services
In the event of a complaint against a service provider in connection with a breach of the provisions relating to billing, invoicing, payment or metering and the restriction or suspension of water utility services
- for non-residential consumers (Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (HEA));
- for residential users (government office with consumer protection competence).
- in case of insufficient supply of seats, denied boarding, cancellation of flights, or long delays (the capital and county government office competent for consumer protection according to the headquarters of the international commercial airport);
- investigation of individual passenger complaints related to violations of the legislation at the airport located in the territory of Hungary (capital and county government office competent for consumer protection according to the headquarters of the international commercial airport);
- no official proceedings may be initiated in the case of damage to luggage, and in the event of a complaint, the European Consumer Centre (ECC), alternative dispute resolution forums and the courts can provide assistance in enforcing the Montreal Convention regulating baggage damage and delays.
Disputes between farmers, retail suppliers and retailers
Contractual and civil disputes (e.g., settlement disputes, claims settlement, etc.) are subject to litigation. In the event of a violation of the prohibition of unfair distribution conduct set out in Act XCV of 2009 on the Prohibition of Unfair Trading Practices Applied Against Suppliers Relative to the Marketing of Agricultural and Food Products, the agricultural administrative body shall act on request or ex officio in accordance with the provisions of the Act.
- compliance with the provisions on the public service charge for waste management ((Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (HEA));
- objections concerning the amount of the public service fee, the mandatory use of the service and the obligatory application of a collection vessel included in a given local governmental decree (Hungarian Energy and Public Utility Regulatory Authority (HEA));
- infringement of the provisions relating to the settling, invoicing, payment of fees and measures taken after the payment due date of arrears and the obligation to notify, provide information and provide services concerning the public waste management service, in a way affecting consumers (government agency with consumer protection competence).
Health and social care system
- the proper functioning of social, child welfare, and child protection service providers, institutions and networks (capital and county government office);
- the quality of health services, the enforcement of health sector legislation (public health administration body: National Public Health Centre);
- compliance with the regulations on ordering, serving and providing subsidised medicines, medical aids and medical services, examination of publicly financed health care activities (National Health Insurance Fund);
- control of health care providers, fulfilment of personal, material, professional minimum conditions, professional rules, protocols and public health regulations (public health administration body - the district office of the capital and county government offices acting in the field of public health, or the (Chief Medical Officer)).
Financial and insurance services
- financial consumer disputes (Financial Arbitration Board (FAB));
- disputes concerning unilateral contract modification and related information practices, as well as disputes concerning the compliance of business regulations with the law (Hungarian National Bank);
- objections to financial and insurance services as supervised activities (Hungarian National Bank);
- in the case of a financial service, the calculation of the annual percentage rate (APR), including which costs are charged and on what basis (Hungarian National Bank);
- violation of the provisions of the Code of Conduct for Fair Treatment of Customers of Financial Institutions Lending credit to retail clients (Hungarian National Bank);
- individual misleading consumer information (Hungarian National Bank);
- objections related to the operation of customer service department and the handling of complaints (Hungarian National Bank).