A panel of European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judges on Tuesday rejected the Hungarian government’s appeal against a ruling that the authorities had monopolised the country’s textbook distribution market, violating companies’ property rights.
The case was brought by textbook distributors Könyv-Tár, Suli-Könyv and Tankönyv-Ker, who argued that a single company, Könyvtárellátó, had effectively monopolised the market after lawmakers centralised the management of schools in 2011 and 2012. They also argued that
the new rules had given Könyvtárellátó a 20 percent margin, compared with their margins of 3-5 percent, without compensating former market players.
In October 2018, the court ruled that the transition period after the market’s centralisation was too short for the companies in question to adapt to the changes. They were excluded from the closed tenders of the state distributor and were not offered compensation for their losses, the ruling said. Those companies subsequently lost their clientele and the market was effectively monopolised, it said.
The ECHR‘s panel of five judges rejected the Hungarian state’s appeal against the ruling.
Compensation will be decided later.
The Ministry of Human Resources said in reaction that the Hungarian government stands by the current textbook distribution system. In a statement, it argued that the introduction of the system had made the distribution of textbooks more transparent, safer and more predictable.
The ministry said textbooks were chosen by schools on the basis of educational criteria rather than market pressure.
“Today the service is no longer about making a profit,” the statement said.