Quick interview with Ildikó Fazekas, secretary general of ÖRT, former chariman of EASA

TT: Ildiko, you were the chairman of the European Advertising Standards Alliance between 2009-2013. Based upon your experience, how difficult is it to harmonize the interests of various national advertising self-regulatory organisations? Is there something like a universal European advertising standard?

IF: Consistency is essential for the advertising industry. The ICC Code is one of the basic principles of the advertising standards used worldwide. In some countries it is simply translated, others use this as a useful starting point. The operational standards of advertising self-regulation were discussed during the EU Advertising Roundtable, and now the system was endorsed by the APEC Leaders' Forum. There might be cultural differences which might have an effect on what we find offensive, but in case of misleadingness the principles of substantiation is harmonised by EASA Best practice recommendations.

TT: Can self-regulation help the authorities by preventing certain misleading advertisements to be aired?

IF: Yes, self-regulation involves a copy advice service which helps a lot in prevention. The other useful service is the training provided by the SROs (self-regulatory organisations). It helps to raise the awareness of the importance of compliance, and also provides insights about sensitve questions.  In case of complaints the decisions are very fast, so we can even stop the campaign, or force them to make changes.

TT: Do authorities in Europe, and specifically in Hungary, take into account the (non-binding) decisions of the self-regulatory agency?

IF: In Hungary we have to work on this. We shall improve  the awareness and acceptance of the decisions of the SRO. I am convinced that a clear message of the acceptance would  be good for the industry and, at the end of the day, could be good for the conusmers, too.

Quick interview with Márk Erdélyi, legal director and compliance officer of Telenor Hungary Kft.

TT: Márk, your interest in consumer protection issues pre-dates your position as legal director of Telenor Hungary. Could you talk about that?

Yes, I set up a consumer protection NGO with experts because despite the law prohibited misleading of consumers it happened a lot. I remember I was walking in the underground and saw the ads of beauty industry: by using their product your skin gets 92% younger, etc. Based on the cases we filed to the Competition Authority more than 1 billion HUF fines were imposed and among others the ads of beauty industry were changed. We started many public litigations as well, e.g. the first cases against the unfair practices of banks back in 2008. However, courts were quite immature to public litigations at that time, effects were limited.

TT: Does the GVH target the markets where competition can be distorted by misleading advertisements? What other sectors would you suggest the agencies to look at?

In general, large companies become mature in that sense that they are respecting the law and Competition Authority. However, I still see many ads which are misleading the consumers.  Sometimes they are coming from mid-sized companies, which might easily disappear or transfer their business to a new company if they are sanctioned. I know that the fight against their practices is not easy. However, this is a challenge for the authorities to manage.

TT: What do you think is the greatest challenge in the field of UCP?

The harmonization of UCP law was done but the practices of the countries are still far away from each other. This hinders cross-border marketing and increases company risks. I believe that conferences – like this one –  might help to converge practice in this field, thus looking forward to it!

TT: Could you share one of your experiences where you had to adapt the advertisement campaign based upon the diverging expectations of various jurisdictions?

We simply do not get there. We do our campaigns locally, as many other companies. We need to work further to build down those boundaries – including legal practice – which hinder cross-border advertising.

 

As preparing for the event, we have asked dr. István Szente, director general of the Hungarian Consumer Protection Authority, and alumnus of our university, to talk about his priorities.

TT: István, you have been nominated as Director General of the Hungarian Authority for Consumer Protection. What will be your priorities, and how does misleading advertising fit into this broader picture?

Priorities of consumer protection enforcers are to a certain extent written in stone, I mean, there are priorities that always have to be on the agenda, which are somewhat pragmatic and permanent yet flexible enough to adjust to the requirements of our era. This should include the effective surveillance of the market to ensure that products sold offline and online are safe and does not impose risk for the consumers, the continuous awareness raising and communication activities that are aiming to empower consumers and foster law abiding behavior of businesses, and of course efficient enforcement of pertaining consumer legislation which should also cover measures applied by the authority to ensure compliance with the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (UCPD) as well. While priorities seem to be fixed, the measures planned to achieve them might be more relevant. I wish to follow an open minded and proactive approach of consumer protection, laying strong emphasis on awareness raising and information activities, yet keeping in mind that companies should comply with the legislation. We will enforce the law in a fast and effective way, including steps to be taken against misleading advertising techniques as well.

TT: Are there sectors, or specific types of marketing conduct that will be high on your agenda?

While a well functioning consumer protection enforcement system requires a horizontal approach, there will be a view sectors that we will focus on. Since the Digital Single Market is ahead of us, we will try to keep up with the challenges of the digital era, follow the new sequels at EU and national policy level, and make ourselves prepared to fight against newly emerging illegal business conducts in the digital environment. We will also monitor compliance with the provisions of the Consumers Rights Directive (CRD), which is a huge achievement on EU level and enables us to perform inspections under a single legislation inside the EU. Businesses were given some time to prepare for the application of the CRD, in 2015 every trader has to be aware of the provisions and of course consumers of their rights. To achieve this we run an awareness raising campaign in conjunction with the Commission about the fundamental consumer rights under the CRD.

TT: There are dozens of agencies and courts all over Europe enforcing the rules of the UCP Directive. Do you consider effective co-operation between authorities as one of your a priorities? Given the different national attitudes, cultures, can rules applied in a uniform manner in the European single market?

As I mentioned above harmonized consumer legislation including the UCPD and the CRD gives the opportunity to enforcers to fight against illegal business conduct under a very similar legislative framework in all Member States. However, harmonized legislation by itself is not enough to prevent cross-border infringements, effective enforcement mechanisms and cooperation between national enforcers is inevitable to address these challenges. As we move forward to a more and more digital society where traditional national borders cease to exist, the importance of efficient cooperation is undisputable. We are pleased with the aim of the ongoing review of the CPC regulation and we expect that the network of national enforcement authorities will be able to perform its full potential, including coordinated enforcement measures as well.

8.30-9.00 Registration and coffee

9.00 Welcome by Pál Szilágyi, director of the Competition Law Research Center

9.00-9.10 Welcome address by Peter Darak, president of the Curia

First panel: Most recent policy and legal developments

Chaired by Tihamer Toth (PPKE Faculty of Law)

9.10-9.30 Adam Jasser, president of the Polish competition authority (UOiKK)

9.30-9.50 Andras Toth, chairman of the Competition Council of the Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) - pdfSlides

9.50-10.10 István Szente, director general of the Hungarian Authority of Consumer Protection (NFH)

10.10-10.30 Veronica Manfredi, head of unit, DG Justice and Consumers, European Commission:  Stepping up awareness and enforcement of EU consumer rights: the yet unexploited potential of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive - pptSlides

10.30-10.40 Questions, comments

10.40-11.00 Coffee break
Second panel: Cosmetics

chaired by Ildikó Fazekas, president of the Self-regulatory Advertising Board

11.00-11.20: Krisztina Grimm (GVH): The Hungarian experience with cosmetics ads - pptxSlides

11.20-12.10 Panel discussion with Csecsei Roland (Avon), Prof. Michel Cannarsa (Catholique University Lyon), Prof. Susanne Augenhofer (Humboldt Universitat, Berlin), Prof. Mark Patterson (Fordham University, New York)

12.10-13.10 Buffet Lunch

Third panel: Social media

chaired by Virág Balogh, Telekom

13.10-13.30 Prof. Monika Namysłowska (University of Lodz): UCP issues with the social media - Slides

13.30-14.00 Panel discussion with Prof. Mark Patterson, Prof. Michel Cannarsa, Prof. Susanne Augenhofer, Marina Catallozzi

Fourth panel: Judicial control of administrative decisions

Chaired by Gusztáv Bacher, attorney, president of the LIDC - Slides of the panel

14.00-14.20: Kati Cseres (University of Amsterdam): The role of judicial review in proceedings under UCP acts - pptSlides

14.20-15.10: Panel discussion with Gergely Barabas (Municipal Court), Attila Kőhalmi (Competition Council) (pptxslides), Prof. Monika Namyslowska (slides), Peter Aranyi (Hungarian Authority of Consumer Protection), Marina Catallozzi (Italian Competition Authority)

15.10. Closing remarks by Tihamer Toth

22 May 2015

Third Annual Conference on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive

Budapest - Hungary

VENUE: Párbeszéd Háza, H-1085 Budapest, Horánszky utca 20.

 

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Competition Law Research Centre

Pázmány Péter Catholic University

Faculty of Law and Political Sciences

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 magyar telekom

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