Europe

In Hungary, A Shopping Ban Means E-Commerce Too

Think online shopping is the perfect way to get around restrictions on when brick-and-mortar stores are allowed to be open? Think again — this week the Hungarian government said that e-commerce deliveries can’t be made when shops can’t stay open, according to Hungarian business publication Portfolio.

New government regulations require stores to be closed between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. and on Sundays and public holidays. But on Monday (Jan. 5), Budapest-based news portal Index.hu reported that retailers including Tesco, supermarket chain CBA and online grocer G’Roby might respond to the Sunday shopping ban by delivering online orders when the stores are closed.

The bureaucrats’ response was swift: The National Economy Ministry announced on Tuesday (Jan. 6) that although customers can still place e-commerce orders online anytime they like, the delivery can’t take place at the times stores are shuttered because of the regulations. Their rationale: The new law is about retail commerce — selling products and directly related services, such as delivery — no matter whether that’s done on a permanent basis or occasionally, or whether it’s on a permanent or floating venue.

Thus, retailers delivering goods ordered online aren’t exempt — although wholesalers making deliveries to the stores themselves are safe.

Hungary isn’t the only place in Europe where retailers can’t stay open late. Last year France’s top court ruled that Sephora, H&M and other retail chains, which wanted their stores along Paris’s Champs-Elysees to stay open until midnight or later for tourists, couldn’t do that and would have to close at 9 p.m.

French law requires any late-night work to be “exceptional” rather than the rule and can only be justified by a tightly defined set of criteria — which would probably outlaw e-commerce deliveries, too.

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