Foreign online shops in Hungary: what rules and what language do apply?

Szerző(k): Dr. Farkas Márton | 2022.06.16 | Fogyasztóvédelem és e-kereskedelem

We often experience the uncertainty of enterprises as well as consumers concerning what kind of consumer protection rules apply to the Hungarian online shop of an enterprise seated in a foreign country? What does “Hungarian” online shop mean at all, whereas the main characteristic of this sector is the possibility of overcoming distances and boundaries? The present article is looking for the answers.

Since the topic has several aspects of legal fields, at first, we shall declare that in this case we will focus on expressly the relevance of consumer protection rules, namely the Hungarian Act XLVII of 2008 on the Prohibition of Unfair Business-to-Consumer Commercial Practices (hereinafter: PUCP).

Section 1 Subsection 1 of PUCP declares to regulate the requirements of commercial practices as well as the provisions for proceedings in cases of infringements, whereas Subsection 2 declares that PUCP applies to commercial practices carried out in the territory of Hungary, and to those that involve any person in the territory of Hungary in his role as consumer. It shall be stressed that the definition of commercial practice includes not only the trade of goods and services, but also the advertising and marketing activities and other commercial communications of the enterprises.

Upon the referred regulation if any kind of commercial practice of a foreign online shop reaches or targets the consumers in Hungary, then such activity shall inevitably be in accordance with the rules of PUCP and at the event of infringement Hungarian authority is entitled to conduct proceedings.

But under what kind of aspects is it declared that the commercial practice of a online shop reaches consumers in Hungary? Several circumstances may be concerned, the most obvious of course is the fact that the communication of the online shop is available in Hungarian, but it is also a clear message if shipping to Hungary is between the options. For digital services it is more difficult to decide in this question of course, in these cases the circumstances of finding the services of the foreign online shop by the consumers can be relevant, for example whether the consumers in Hungary are targeted by direct marketing.

As we managed to decide which activities of foreign online shops fall within the scope of PUCP, it is time to examine one of the most relevant questions arising thereof: is it necessary to maintain the communications in Hungarian to inform the consumers, or is it enough to do so in in English because of the international nature of the webhsop?

The Hungarian Competition Authority declared in his resolution published under No. 39/2012. that pursuant to Section 3 Subsection 2 of PUCP, the requirement of care which a trader may reasonably be expected to exercise, commensurate with honest market practice and/or the general principle of good faith means that the enterprises shall not neglect the availability of their material terms and conditions in such language, which they use to communicate with the targeted consumers.

Therefore, if a foreign online shop, who targets consumers in Hungary with his commercial practices does not publish his general terms and conditions or other mandatory information in Hungarian, then he performs unfair commercial practices and may be subject to a proceeding by the Competition Authority. It is good to know that Hungarian authorities had commenced proceedings against foreign enterprises several occasions, so not only Hungarian companies are affected in this regard, so the regulation is enforced against domestic and foreign enterprises either.

Finally, we draw the attention to the fact that the provisions of PUCP are based on the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive under No. 2005/29/EC, therefore the above statements may be regarded as relevant concerning the commercial practices of online shops with Hungarian seat targeting consumers in other state member of EU, since the concerned state member should have presented his respective regulation upon the said Directive, either.  

No matter of the common basic of the regulation, the applicable exact rules and the relevant practice of the authority in any member state are known by the domestic legal professionals, so it is highly recommended to ask for advice before entering into foreign markets or handling a concrete consumer protection case. We are pleased to assist any enterprises trading in Hungary.

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Dr. Farkas Márton

Dr. Farkas Márton
Ecovis Hungary Legal
Bihary, B. Szabó, Jean, Zalavári és Társai Ügyvédi Iroda
A szerző szakmai profilja