Our lawyers respond to legal questions from readers of the daily Austrian newspaper “Tiroler Tageszeitung”, in connection with the corona crisis.
Here are some of the questions and answers:
Question: Does a business have to continue to pay full rent, even if it is doing business from outside the rented business premises?
Answer: A shop that has been closed down by the authorities due to corona is now selling online. Or: a restaurant that has been closed down now delivers to its customers at home. What both cases have in common is that the businesses are kmaking turnover, but not through the use of the business premises that they have rented. Are the shop and the restaurant still allowed to reduce their rental payments partially or in full, based on § 1104 General Civil Code (“epidemic”)? Yes, because the rented premises have become only partially usable or not usable at all for the agreed purpose.
Attorney Norbert Rinderer
Question: Can an employee be terminated during short-time work (Kurzarbeit)?
Answer: An employee cannot be dismissed for economic reasons during short-time work. However, it is possible to terminate an employee if the reason for the termination lies in the person of the employee (e.g. behavioural reasons). In such cases, the employer is under a duty to retain the position through a replacement, unless the Labour Market Service Authority (AMS) has granted an exception. In the application to the authority, reasons must be stated as to why the employer’s business would be endangered by maintaining the same number of employees.
Attorney Melanie Tischlinger
Question: Companies and the Epidemics Act: for which time periods can compensation be claimed?
Answer: At the start of the corona crisis, businesses felt that they were well protected financially against losses. Indeed, the Epidemics Act of 1950 provides that companies that are totally or partially closed down by the authorities due to an epidemic can claim full compensation from the state for their loss of earnings. In order to contain the enormous expenses the state would face as a result of the corona crisis, the new so-called “COVID-19 Measures Act” and the “Closure Ordinance” issued by the Minister of Health eliminated this legal protection for many business sectores overnight. But not completely. Companies that had already been closed down under the Epidemics Act prior to 16 March 2020 or were subject to movement restrictions (in the quarantined areas) can continue to claim compensation for their losses.
Attorney Herwig Frei
Can associations and societies hold “virtual” meetings?
An ordinance by the Minister of Justice on “virtual meetings” has created new options for associations, shareholders’ meetings, supervisory board meetings, private foundations and cooperatives up to 31 December 2020.
The prerequisites for holding a “virtual meeting” without the physical presence of the participants are 1. an “acoustic and optical two-way connection in real time” and 2. a maximum of half of the participants can have only an acoustic connection to the meeting (i.e. without video). Doubts as to the identity of a participant have to be verified, for example showing ID on camera. Even before the Corona crisis, shareholders could participate in Annual General Meetings via electronic communication in accordance with the respective Articles of Association.
Lawyer Silvia Moser
You ordered a car from the car dealer for delivery on a fixed and guaranteed date. Now the dealer says that he cannot deliver on time because of the Corona crisis. What can you do?
The car dealer was not supplied by the manufacturer. The delivery delay is directly due to the Corona crisis. Probably there is a case of “force majeure”. If the contract or the general terms and conditions do not provide for “force majeure”, you can withdraw from the order by setting a reasonable grace period. Payments that have already been made must be refunded.
Attorney Alexandra Eder
What happens to my ticket for a summer event?
The Vienna City Marathon, the Ötztal Cycling Marathon, the White Thrill on the Arlberg and all sports and cultural events are cancelled due to the Corona crisis. What if I have already paid the participation fee or for my concert ticket? Will I be reimbursed for the costs? Do I simply have to accept a new date? Or will I even be stuck with my ticket?
Everything depends on the contract: If there is no provision there for the cancellation of events or for “force majeure”, as a consumer I can invoke the Consumer Protection Act. If the organiser does not agree on a new date with me as a consumer, he haas to reimburse me for my participation fee or concert ticket. However, the organiser does not have to reimburse other costs, such as for booked flights, purchased train tickets etc.
Attorney Barbara Egger-Russe
More information on legal questions relating to COVID-19: