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In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Hungarian government launched Government Decree 47/2020 (III. 18.), introducing a moratorium on the payment of principal, interest, and fees arising from facility, loan, and financial lease contracts until December 31, 2020. This moratorium, which we will call the “2020 Payment Moratorium,” was automatically available to both natural person and business entity borrowers, although they could opt out of if they wished.

The current backbone of the EU’s e-Commerce Directive was adopted 20 years ago. Since then, the landscape of the digital economy has changed significantly, as most online platforms in use today did not exist in 2000. As a result, many digital experts claim that competition enforcers have failed to tackle some of the specific challenges created by the new digital platforms.

Recently published case law from Hungary’s National Institute of Pharmacy and Nutrition – the Hungarian acronym is OGYEI – deals with various aspects of pharmaceutical promotional activities and interactions with health care providers. The OGYEI investigated the commercial practices of Aramis Pharma Kft., Lilly Hungaria Kft., and Sager Pharma Kft., and imposed fines following the discovery of infringements.

Almost a year ago, in March 2020, the Hungarian regulator – the NMHH – announced that 5G frequency licenses had been auctioned for a term of 15 years with a 5-year extension option to Magyar Telekom, Vodafone, and Telenor (a fourth operator, Digi, did not acquire a 5G license). These three operators spent a total of HUF 125.8 billion on these 5G licenses, enabling them to provide next generation mobile broadband services. Vodafone started 5G services in downtown Budapest in 2019 on previously-acquired frequencies, using the newly acquired frequencies to improve coverage in other cities and certain rural areas. The 5G services – as well as related applications and technology products – are expected to fundamentally change the industry, as demand for broadband services has increased exponentially due the widespread introduction of home office due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The original foreign direct investment screening regime was adopted in Hungary pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2019/452 of the European Parliament and of the Council and became effective on January 1, 2019. Instead of amending the original regime, a new parallel FDI screening regime was introduced in late May 2020 to protect Hungarian strategic sectors during the COVID-19 period. This second regime was fine-tuned in the middle of June, 2020 and then again at the end of October, 2020. The notification obligation under the second regime is applicable to relevant transactions made before June 30, 2021.

In accordance with worldwide trends, Hungarian public markets are not showing the signs of exponential growth that private markets are. The legislative environment for public listings has not changed significantly in Hungary since 2019, when Act CXX of 2001 on the Capital Market was heavily amended in order to be fully harmonized with the European Union’s Prospectus Regulation (2017/1129 EU). That modification made public issuances easier, as it dispensed with the requirement that prospectuses must be prepared for listings of securities with unit values of at least EUR 100,000. 

Emerging new tendencies in economic activities have reached Hungary in the last few years. The most important driving force behind this change is the shifting of consumption into the online space, which inevitably entails a change in market structure. As a result, new products that are exclusively or partially available online have appeared, the geographical coverage of products has widened, and other services related to online consumption have become increasingly important. Social media, influencer marketing, and targeted advertisements all contribute to the popularity of the new market as well. Hungarian consumers are now able to fulfil a significant portion of their product and service needs through e-commerce channels. With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing to push economic activities online, the role of digital distribution channels has increased even more.

As the world continues to fight the challenges presented by COVID-19, some guidance on the effects on litigation of the COVID-19 crisis can be discerned from the past year. We know that some sectors have suffered more than others, and participants in industries most affected by COVID-19, like airlines, HORECA, tourism, entertainment, and the commercial real estate sector have already become involved in related legal disputes, such as contractual disputes concerning supply chain disruptions. The big question is whether the pandemic qualifies as a force majeure or a material adverse change that could allow the contracting parties to walk away.

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