25 March 2020 – need2know
On 22 March 2020, the Second COVID-19 Act, a sweeping emergency law that extends deadlines across-the-board in the government, came into force in Austria. The new COVID-19 legislation in Austria will have an impact on merger filings, deadlines and with the proceedings at the Cartel Court (Kartellgericht). Furthermore, the competition authority (Bundeswettbewerbsbehörde, BWB) announced essential changes with regard to its business proceedings.
Impacts on Deadlines:
Under the new law, the 4-week period for Phase I review of notifications filed by 30 April will not begin to run until 1 May 2020. However, per public comments published on its website on 23 March 2020, the BWB will not apply this new law to notifications already pending prior to its entry into force, i.e. before 22 March 2020. In addition, the authority made clear that the new law does not impact its ability to waive (on request of the parties) its right to review a notification in justified cases.
This means that under the current circumstances, outside of cases were a discretionary waiver can be obtained, transactions filed in Austria after 22 March 2020 cannot obtain regulatory clearance in Phase I prior to the end of May 2020, at the earliest.
Based on the Second COVID-19 Act, also the 5 months deadlines for pending and future Phase II cases at Cartel Court initiated prior to 30th April 2020 will also only start to run on 1 May 2020 (if no waiver in Phase II can be obtained).
Online Merger Notification, Changes in Business Proceedings:
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Austrian competition authority has also launched an online merger notification system. An electronic filing of mergers is therefore possible with immediate effect.
Consistent with broader restrictions currently in place in Austria at large, the competition authority is currently closed to the public. The BWB has cancelled all meetings, hearings and schedules, unless they can be conducted via telephone or other media. Parties are requested to contact the authority by electronic means.
In case timetables of transactions are impacted please do not hesitate to contact us.
Competition and Antitrust Law
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