Doing business with Austria

Source and updates – ADVANTAGE AUSTRIA
Importing from Austria
Austrian products and services adhere to the highest quality standards and the conditions of business transactions are consistently regulated.
Products made in Austria are in high demand all over the world. The reasons for this are not only top quality and high customer expectations, but also standards and technical specifications.
Austrian Standards

They define, for example

  • Product requirements
    to ensure fitness for use, compatibility, safety, health and environmental protection
  • Procedures and processes
    e.g. on the expert performance of tasks or the awarding of contracts
  • Test and measurement methods
    for proving compliance with limit values or requirements
  • Terms and definitions
    to facilitate communication with businesspartners, customers, testing institutes and authorities on the basis of harmonized terminology

As a result, standards

  •  dismantle trade barriers – at a national, European and international level
  • facilitate the comparability of products and services
  • ensure rational planning and production processes
  • reduce routine work, and
  • thereby facilitate access to markets
Primer on Austrian Contract Law
The legal framework on the law of contracts is set forth in the Austrian Civil Code and a newly enacted Uniform Commercial Code (UGB). The UGB governs all commercial transactions as of January 1, 2007.
Freedom of contract is the underlying principle of Austrian contract law. The contracting parties are thus free to choose any terms suitable for a transaction, unless a contractual provision or covenant would render the agreement unconscionable or otherwise unlawful. A contract is defined as consenting declarations of an offer and a corresponding acceptance and in general, neither offer nor acceptance requires a specific form under Austrian law. Also oral agreements and, under restricted circumstances, agreements implied through action (tacit agreement) are legally binding and enforceable. Certain exceptions to this freedom of form apply with respect to securities and suretyship agreements, insurance contracts and certain agreements governed by consumer protection laws. These contracts must be made in writing to become effective. The even stricter form of a notarial deed is required to set up corporations and transfer shares held in a limited liability company.

Business transactions are commonly subject to either of the contracting parties’ terms and conditions and Austrian law safeguards that such general terms pass a test of fairness and are not forced upon the other party.

Currency Control
Austria has very liberal currency control regulations, based on the ruling EU-provisions and the Austrian Currency Law (Devisengesetz 2004). The Austrian National Bank (Oesterreichische Nationalbank, OeNB) is responsible for currency control in Austria . The principle of Freedom of Movement of Capital applies within the EU and there are no legal restrictions on payments and capital transfers between Austria and the other EU member states.

In respect of currency transactions with countries outside the EU there are, with few exceptions, neither restrictions on payments relating to foreign trade, investment or other transactions nor on capital transfers, payment of dividends, profits or other earnings. Foreign firms have unrestricted access to the Austrian capital market. Some currency transactions do, however, have to be reported to the OeNB, principally for the statistical purposes.

Further information is available at:

Oesterreichische Nationalbank
Otto Wagner Platz 3
1090 Wien
 +43 1 40420 0
 +43 1 40420 042399
General Export Clearance Information
The clearance process for purposes of exporting from Austria requires proper documentation (including permits, licenses and related certificates of origin) and strict export compliance. However, as an EU-member state, Austria has adopted the European export regime so that all exports are exempt from customs duties and Austrian turnover tax.

Unless shipped and traded within the EU, export documentation requirements vary, depending on the value of the goods, destination of the shipment and whether the goods are controlled, prohibited or regulated. The Austrian seller must provide the competent customs office with the reporting form, a bill of lading/airway bill, a commercial or a pro-forma invoice, as well as any export permits, certificates or licenses required for controlled, prohibited or regulated goods. All controlled or regulated commodities require an export permit regardless of the value. Specific export permits are for commodities subject to export controls, such as arms and munitions and “dual use”-goods.

Arbitration in Austria
On an international level, dispute resolution through arbitration has the considerable advantage that based on international treaties; Austrian arbitration awards are enforceable in almost any jurisdiction. Austria has signed all important bilateral and multilateral treaties, among those the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.

An arbitration agreement must be drawn up in writing to be valid and legally binding, although an arbitration clause by way of exchanging fax or electronic messages would suffice to meet this statutory requirement. It is highly recommendable to include an arbitration clause in contracts with an international context. Dispute resolution through arbitration allows for comparatively expeditious proceedings and an award on the merits that is also fully recognized and enforced by Austrian federal courts.

The International Court of Arbitration of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber in Vienna is a renowned arbitration organisation that is increasingly chosen to settle multi-jurisdictional disputes and helped establish Austria ’s reputation as a venue for international arbitration.

Exporting To Austria
Reliable, up-to-date information about the Austrian market, import regulations, contract conditions, distribution channels, advertising and financing: everything an exporter needs to know, handily collected for you.
Consumer Requirements
Free competition leads to highly demanding customers. Quality, presentation, price and image are assessed in depth. Punctual, accurate delivery and smooth replacements and service provision are all expected.

Austria is among the top 15 UN countries for Standard of Living. Technical standards and quality expectations are generally high in the Austrian market.

Market Research

There are a variety of market research companies and marketing consultants in Austria.

These companies:

  • Take on tailored studies for clients
  • Conduct regular surveys of market-specific focus groups
  • Publish reports on market trends

For detailed information and contact addresses of market research institutes, please visit: 

Wirtschaftskammer Österreich (WKÖ)
Fachverband Werbung und Marktkommunikation
Wiedner Hauptstraße 63
1045 Wien
 +43 5 90 900 3504
 +43 5 90 900 285
Distribution Channels
There are many distribution channels available for importing goods to Austria:

  • traditional import trade
  • wholesalers
  • direct import by retailers
  • cooperative purchasing associations
  • direct import by industry
  • own branch operations
  • distribution through commercial agents

Sales to Wholesale Importers

Selling to wholesale importers is the most common method of distributing goods in Austria. Many of these traders also deal with exports. Some importers deal in goods from across the globe, other specialize in specific regions or countries.

Import of Goods by Retailers, Industry and Manufacturers

The Austrian Business Code also allows the import of goods by retailers. Large chain stores, mail order houses and department stores are all crucial importers, especially for overseas goods. Some industries and smaller manufacturers also work as importers as well as suppliers.

Imports from Overseas

Austria has a relatively small market, consequently smaller quantities are required. Therefore imports from overseas are often not channelled directly, but instead through an importer from another European country – usually Germany.

Sales Representation

Search for Sales Representatives

You’re looking for a sales representative in Austria? The website of the Federal Association of Commercial Agents has an on-line database where you can search by branch or place an on-line advert. Advertising opportunities are also available in the quarterly ‘Commercial Agent’ magazine CONTACT (in German) .

Please contact:

Federal Association of Commercial Agents
(Bundesgremium der Handelsagenten)
Wiedner Hauptstraße 63
1045 Vienna
 +43 5 90900 3200
 +43 5 90900 287

Agency Law

You would like to work together with an independent agent? The conditions are good as cooperation with commercial agents is well-established in Austria. The Austrian Commercial Agent Law adopted the EU regulations for this field.

Legal Basis – Agency Agreements

Cooperation terms with an agent should be laid down in an agency agreement. The regulations and responsibilities of both the company and the agency should be clearly specified. The Austrian Commercial Agent Law regulates the minimum requirements of the agent, such as notice periods and redundancy pay.

At the end of the business relationship the agent is free to represent a competitor. This right cannot be modified in any way.

Agency agreements generally last for between one and five years. Termination of the agreement is subject to a notice period, although immediate termination is possible in exceptional circumstances e.g. breach of confidence, fraud, breach of contract.

You can find a sample agency contract, as well as information on EU and Austrian Agency Law on the website of the Austrian Association of Commercial Agents. To download a sample contract (Mustervertrag) in German/ English/ French/ Spanish and Italian please click here:

Expertise of Austrian Foreign Traders
Austrian trade companies have an enormous amount of know-how of world markets thanks to their decades of experience. They are therefore very helpful for developing business dealings in import and export. Merchant trading – the connection of two markets through an Austrian company – is becoming increasingly important.

The detailed knowledge of the Central and Eastern European markets is what makes Austrian traders particularly stand out. However, foreign trade companies are also represented in practically all world markets. High levels of flexibility, delivery of goods to any location and supply of relevant expertise have made Austrian foreign trade companies into reliable and sought-after partners.

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