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Trade facilities

Law regulating trade facilities

Generally, trade activities are carried out in trade facilities. These are local premises which are dedicated to the long-term use as locations for pursuing trade activities (Section 74 (1) GewO 1994). They may be very different in their design and use, ranging from offices to factories, stockyards, shopping malls, restaurants and petrol stations.

When a trade facility is liable to affect protective interests, its establishment and operation require an approval (Section 74 (2) GewO 1994). Protective interests include, i.a., protection of human life and health (customers and neighbours) or the protection of neighbours from pollution, such as smells or noise.

The law governing trade facilities covers not just new facilities but spans the overall fate of a given facility, including changes, operations, checks and closures.

Given that such facilities always have an impact on the environment, the law is a crucial item of the environmental laws governing industrial plants in Austria.

Regulations regarding commercial facilities

The regulations governing trade facilities are generally incorporated in GewO 1994, Part I, General Provisions, Sections:

  • 8 (trade facilities),
  • 8a (section governing the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances), and
  • 8b (reporting duties under EU law); and
  • in Part IV, Government Authorities and Procedures, mostly Chapter 2i (procedures for trade facilities).

In some areas, the law governing trade facilities shows a strong influence of EU law. Examples would be the chapter on controlling major-accident hazards that involve dangerous substances (implementation of the Seveso III Directive) and the IPPC regulations (implementation of the Industrial Emissions Directive, Chapter II), which are not given a separate section but were integrated in the law in their proper context.

Enforcement

The government authority responsible for enforcing the law on trade facilities is the district administrative authority in the territory of which the trade facility has been set up and is operating.

The Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs is exercising its authority to ensure uniform enforcement across Austria. Efforts to this extent include the annual meeting of civil servants responsible for commercial affairs at federal and state levels, whose minutes are published (Protokolle der Gewerbereferententagung, available in german), as well as the development of relevant ordinances, such as the Ordinance governing the storage of aerosol dispensers (APLV), Federal Law Gazette II no. 347/2018. These ordinances, which take into account the state of the art in the field, include aspects of administrative streamlining and accelerated procedures, because the standard requirements are deemed to be predefined and need no longer be discussed in the proceedings nor identified in the licence.

In its contacts to the enforcement agencies and business, the Federal Ministry for Digital and Economic Affairs follows topical developments (such as Monitoring-of-trade-facility-licensing-proceedings), prepares adjustments of the Trade Act of 1994 and provides ordinances to relieve business and administrative strictures without losing sight of the protection of health, neighbours and the environment (as, e.g., the recent second ordinance regarding the exception of approvals).

Contact

Division for Trade Law: gewerbe@bmdw.gv.at