Austrian Constitutional Court confirms shop opening hours
In its judgement (G 66/11-8) of 14 June 2012 the Austrian Constitutional Court confirmed that the prohibition on shop opening on Sundays and bank holidays is consistent with the Austrian constitution. The overall objectives of shop closing or opening hours are: the protection of the interests of consumers, the aims of the competition regime and the socio-political function. All of these objectives would be in the public interest, says the Court.
With regard to shop closing hours at weekends, the Court underlines that there would be an additional objective; namely that concerning socio- and family-political reasons. With reference to its decision on the regulation of Saturday afternoon closing hours, the Court states that with these regulations a certain synchronisation with a common principle of labour law – the “weekend rest” - is achieved. The weekend plays a special role in leisure, relaxation and social integration.
Societal change in recent decades does not change the public interest in a (most far-reaching) synchronisation with the principle of weekend rest. In all European societies, one finds a weekly day of rest, be it for religious reasons or to reasons of relaxation of the working population or due to socio- or family-political reasons; applying a weekly day of rest, however, varies in its extent. The Austrian regulation on shop opening hours, especially with regard to Sundays, is an adequate means to achieve these objectives and is not disproportionate in relation to freedom of trade (Erwerbsbetätigung), states the Constitutional Court. It further emphasises that the objective of synchronisation and harmonisation of shop opening hours with the weekend-rest in working-time law goes beyond the labour law objectives. The aim is not only to achieve – at least a partial - synchronisation of societal processes on one day of the week, but also to lead in general to a reduction in the need to have to provide services, which also releases employees who are not directly working in the commerce sector from having to work such as on normal ‘work days’ (for example, those working in services of general public interest like public transport).
The Austrian Sunday Alliance welcomed the decision of the Constitutional Court and described it as a positive “signal for Zeitwohlstand (beneficial use of time) and quality of life ”. Please see the relevant press release of 12 July 2012.