AFCA’s remit in relation to the Federal Act Against Unfair Competition (UWG)
As part of the goal to ensure properly functioning competition, the AFCA is entitled to assert claims for a cease-and-desist order pursuant to the UWG. The AFCA has the power to investigate complaints about aggressive and misleading commercial practices prohibited under the UWG. In contrast to antitrust proceedings before the (Supreme) Cartel Court, a cease-and-desist order pursuant to the UWG may also be filed by the AFCA with the ordinary civil courts of law.The AFCA is treated as equivalent to a private party in UWG proceedings, bearing the full litigation cost risk.
When does the AFCA step in?
The AFCA is not only required to intervene in response to an initial suspicion of a breach of the UWG, but also in cases where there is a particular public interest in it taking action. Such public interest can only be examined, and potentially confirmed, on a case-by-case basis. There may be a public interest, for example, in cases of advertisements in print or online media that mislead the contractual party about the price of the product or service or the calculation of that price. Another example would be an incorrect claim made by a provider that a product will only be available for a short time or only available on the basis of certain terms for a limited period. As a rule of thumb, however, it can be stated that a public interest exists in particular in cases where aggressive or misleading business practices are directed at a large, potentially harmed group.
How to lodge a complaint
Please submit your complaints to the AFCA’s general e-mail address wettbewerb[at]bwb.gv.at.
The AFCA will, as a matter of course, treat all data related to the complainant as confidential at all times. It has set up a separate UWG Unit for such cases.
It is important to note that complainants will not incur any costs if we decide to take legal steps. However, the AFCA is only in a position to obtain a cease-and-desist order relating to a breach of the UWG. It is unable to seek compensation for any damage already suffered by the complainant. Complainants would need to go to the civil courts for damages.
Powers held by other institutions
Apart from the AFCA, other institutions may also assert claims. The Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, the Presidential Conference of the Austrian Chambers of Agriculture, the Austrian Trade Union Federation and the Federal Chamber of Labour may also make claims for a cease-and-desist order in cases of unfair, aggressive and/or misleading business practices. The Austrian Consumers’ Association (VKI) also has some powers in relation to the UWG.
Further organisations that take action to combat unfair business practices
The Association for the Protection against Unfair Competition also takes action against UWG breaches in commercial transactions.
The Association’s remit is, however, restricted to cases relevant to the whole industry. It may therefore act in cases where several companies in a given industry are affected by a breach of competition law. The Association does not accept any anonymous complaints.
Complainants may also take their case to the European Consumer Centres Network Austria.
The Federal Office of Metrology and Surveying (BEV) is responsible for dealing with cross-border breaches within the European Union. Infringements are deemed to have a cross-border element where collective interests of consumers are damaged and such consumers do not reside in the country from which the illegal act originates or where the responsible company is registered.