Trades (Trade Regulation Act, Trade and Industrial Law): Trade Regulation is within the jurisdiction of federal authorities both with respect to legislation and enforcement. The authorities in charge of trade regulation are the district administrations, the provincial governors and the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs. The Federal Police authorities and Economic Chambers (trainee contracts, arbitration on issues of the scope of authorised activities) act as first-instance executive authorities.
The first important legal document that lays down basic principles for Austrian businesses is the 1859 Trade Regulation Act. The idea was to grant individuals a maximum of freedom to choose their occupations. This "freedom of exercise" was, however, more and more restricted as industrialisation progressed: In 1833, the handicrafts were made contingent upon certification of qualification. In 1885, regulations for an amelioration of working conditions were imposed, and in 1893 the building trades were regulated by law. In 1895, a Sunday observance law was passed. In 1907, certain commercial businesses were forced to disclose their income and expenditures and in 1934, certain trades and crafts were made subject to licensing ("licensable trades") and master qualifications became obligatory for all. In 1937 the Interdiction Act virtually put an end to the freedom of exercise. In 1940, the German Crafts and Trades Law was introduced, and the Austrian regulations were not reintroduced until well after the end of the war (1952); the 1937 Interdiction Act was repealed and qualifications for licensable crafts and trades were made more stringent.
The 1994 Trade Regulation Act is binding on crafts (e.g. locksmiths, joiners, cabinet-makers), trades that are not obliged to register with local authorities but need special qualification certificates (e.g. commercial enterprises, hotel and restaurant trade), trades that need to register with local authorities and require special qualification certificates (building contractors, electricians) and free trades (software services). Prerequisites for exercising a trade or craft in Austria are majority, Austrian or EU citizenship or reciprocity agreements (1995: with USA and, for some trades, Czech Republic and Switzerland), absence of reasons for disqualification such as certain previous convictions or bankruptcy. Special prerequisites: qualification certificates for all crafts and licensable trades. Plant and equipment (especially when dangerous and/or producing excess noise) are subject to special operating licenses.
All persons who have acquired the right to practice a trade or craft are automatically members of the Economic Chamber organisation. The various branches of trade are still organised in guilds and other trade organisations, even though structures, rules and regulations have changed in the course of time. During the second half of the 19th century, for example, guilds were temporarily abolished. Nowadays, however, it is the trade associations which safeguard such matters as adequate working conditions, including the training of apprentices and continued training for employees.
Literature#W. Kemmetmueller and W. Sertl (eds.), Klein- und Mittelbetriebe - Chancen, Probleme, Loesungen, 1981; Institut fuer Gewerbe- und Handwerksforschung, Gewerbe und Handwerk 2000, 1991; J. Mugler, Betriebswirtschaftslehre der Klein- und Mittelbetriebe, 1993.