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17 January 2019

Hungary: Tricks and Traps of Electronic Communication

We have seen continuous development over the past few years in the means of communication with the judiciary as well as central and local administrative bodies. But there are pitfalls one should be careful to avoid.

The basics of electronic administration

Electronic administration allows users to communicate efficiently with courts, authorities and other government entities. Generally, private individuals may choose whether or not to communicate via an electronic platform, while for business entities it is mandatory. From that point on, all correspondence, submissions and announcements of the business entity must be done and submitted via the electronic platform.

This electronic platform is the so-called "cégkapu" (online gate). Emails thus do not meet the legal or technical requirements of electronic communication. Existing business entities must already have an online gate, while new entities must establish one upon registration.

Only the business entity's legal representative may set up the online gate. The representative may, however, nominate another employee or agent (e.g. a freelance accountant) to administer the online gate. These employees or agents can then access the online gate with limited user rights.

Pursuant to a very recent legal development, the identification details of the online gate must be registered with the court of registry that registered the business entity upon its establishment. This enables courts, authorities and government entities to start communicating with each business entity immediately via electronic means, i.e. without first sending a paper notification and asking for the entity's approval to switch to electronic communication.

What to expect from the online gate

As the electronic contacts (online gate details) are publicly available on the business entity's registry extract, the entity must expect that all official documents will be served on it only electronically via its online gate.

When a business entity receives an official document via the online gate, it first receives an automatically generated notification via email to the email address that was indicated when setting up the online gate. If the official document is not accessed (i.e. downloaded) by a representative of the business entity within five business days after the first delivery of the email notification, the business entity will receive an automated reminder email. If the document is not downloaded, it will be deemed delivered five business days after the reminder (i.e. from the second notification).

The online gate is very similar to web-based mailing software and has an "inbox" to which the documents are delivered. Documents delivered to the inbox are automatically deleted after 30 days. So if you want to keep files in the online gate for more than 30 days, they should be moved to the "long-term inbox", which is limited but may be upgraded upon subscription.

Delivery assumptions

Official documents served electronically to the online gate are deemed to be served (i) when the document is downloaded from the online gate or (ii) when the download is rejected, or (iii) if the document is neither downloaded nor rejected, five business days after the date indicated in the second email notification.

An official document will be deemed served even if the recipient has not logged into the online gate or has logged in but not downloaded it.

Take, for instance, the following scenario: A statement of claim is served on a business entity together with a court order setting a deadline for the entity to submit its defence. If the business entity fails to log in to its online gate and download the files, the statement of claim is not only deemed served after five business days from the second notification, but the deadline set by the court also starts to run. If the entity does not access the files for more than 30 days, the files will not even be accessible after the expiry of those 30 days. Furthermore, due to the failure to submit a defence, the court may issue a default judgment, i.e. decide the case as requested in the statement of claim without hearing the case or considering the arguments or any evidence.

To avoid this, it is advised to check the online gate at least once a week. It is an especially good idea to pay attention to documents received from a court (where the sender is "OBH", i.e. National Court Office) or tax authorities, because they may contain strict deadlines where a failure to comply may be detrimental. More generally, the allocation of administrator roles related to a business entity's online gate must be well thought through. If employees who have been allocated such roles leave, the automatic closure of their company email addresses (to which notifications from the online gate are served) may have serious consequences for the operation of the business entity.


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further reading:
Serbia catches up with the GDPR: New Data Protection Law adopted


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