Anna Wyrozumska Workshop on basic principles of the eu law



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Anna Wyrozumska

Workshop on basic principles of the EU law (direct effect, primacy etc.)

8/81 Ursula Becker v Finanzamt Münster-Innenstadt
MAY ARTICLE 13 B (D) 1 OF THE SIXTH COUNCIL DIRECTIVE 77/388/EEC OF 17 MAY 1977 ON THE HARMONIZATION OF THE LAWS OF THE MEMBER STATES RELATING TO TURNOVER TAXES - COMMON SYSTEM OF VALUE-ADDED TAX BE CONSIDERED AS HAVING BEEN DIRECTLY APPLICABLE IN THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY SINCE 1 JANUARY 1979 IN VIEW OF THE FAILURE BY THAT MEMBER STATE TO ADOPT WITHIN THE PRESCRIBED PERIOD THE MEASURES NECESSARY IN ORDER TO ENSURE ITS IMPLEMENTATION?
ARTICLE 13 B (D) 1 reads:

MEMBER STATES SHALL EXEMPT THE FOLLOWING UNDER CONDITIONS WHICH THEY SHALL LAY DOWN FOR THE PURPOSE OF ENSURING THE CORRECT AND STRAIGHTFORWARD APPLICATION OF THE EXEMPTIONS AND OF PREVENTING ANY POSSIBLE EVASION, AVOIDANCE OR ABUSE : . . . (D) THE FOLLOWING TRANSACTIONS: 1. THE GRANTING AND THE NEGOTIATION OF CREDIT . . . “.


3 IT WAS NOT UNTIL THE ADOPTION OF THE LAW OF 26 NOVEMBER 1979 ( BUNDESGESETZBLATT I , P . 1953 ), WHICH TOOK EFFECT ON 1 JANUARY 1980 , THAT THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY IMPLEMENTED THE SIXTH DIRECTIVE .

4 IT IS APPARENT FROM THE ORDER MAKING THE REFERENCE TO THE COURT THAT IN HER MONTHLY RETURNS IN RESPECT OF TURNOVER TAX FOR THE PERIOD FROM MARCH TO JUNE 1979 THE PLAINTIFF IN THE MAIN ACTION , WHO CARRIES ON THE BUSINESS OF A SELF-EMPLOYED CREDIT NEGOTIATOR , APPLIED FOR EXEMPTION FROM TAX IN RESPECT OF HER TRANSACTIONS , CLAIMING THAT ARTICLE 13 B ( D ) 1 COMPELLED THE MEMBER STATES TO EXEMPT FROM VALUE-ADDED TAX INTER ALIA'' THE GRANTING AND THE NEGOTIATION OF CREDIT'' AND THAT THAT DIRECTIVE HAD BEEN PART OF NATIONAL LAW SINCE 1 JANUARY 1979 .

5 IT APPEARS FROM THE FILE ON THE CASE THAT THE PLAINTIFF IN THE MAIN ACTION INFORMED THE FINANZAMT ( TAX OFFICE ) OF THE AMOUNT OF HER TURNOVER AND OF THE INPUT TAX WHICH SHE HAD PAID AND AT THE SAME TIME CLAIMED THAT SHE WAS ENTITLED TO THE EXEMPTION PROVIDED FOR BY ARTICLE 13 B ( D ) 1 OF THE DIRECTIVE. CONSEQUENTLY, IN EACH CASE SHE DECLARED THE AMOUNT OF TAX PAYABLE AND THE DEDUCTION IN RESPECT OF INPUT TAX TO BE ' ' NIL ' ' .

6 THE FINANZAMT DID NOT ACCEPT THOSE RETURNS AND, IN ITS PROVISIONAL NOTICES OF ASSESSMENT FOR THE MONTHS IN QUESTION , CHARGED TURNOVER TAX ON THE TRANSACTIONS OF THE PLAINTIFF IN THE MAIN ACTION , IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE NATIONAL LEGISLATION WHICH HAD NOT YET BEEN AMENDED , SUBJECT TO A DEDUCTION IN RESPECT OF INPUT TAX .

7 FOLLOWING THE DISMISSAL OF HER OBJECTION, THE PLAINTIFF IN THE MAIN ACTION APPEALED AGAINST THOSE ASSESSMENTS TO THE FINANZGERICHT , RELYING UPON THE ABOVE-MENTIONED PROVISION OF THE DIRECTIVE .

(...)



12 THE FINANZAMT, THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY AND THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FRENCH REPUBLIC DO NOT DISPUTE THE FACT THAT THE PROVISIONS OF DIRECTIVES MAY IN CERTAIN CIRCUMSTANCES BE RELIED UPON BY INDIVIDUALS, AS IS CLEAR FROM THE CASE-LAW OF THE COURT, BUT MAINTAIN THAT SUCH AN EFFECT IS NOT TO BE ATTRIBUTED TO THE PROVISION IN QUESTION IN THE MAIN ACTION .

13 THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT CONSIDERS THAT THE TAX DIRECTIVES SEEK TO ACHIEVE THE PROGRESSIVE HARMONIZATION OF THE VARIOUS NATIONAL SYSTEMS OF TAXATION BUT NOT THE REPLACEMENT OF THOSE SYSTEMS BY A COMMUNITY SYSTEM OF TAXATION. THAT IS ALSO TRUE OF THE SIXTH DIRECTIVE WHICH CONTAINS A SET OF PROVISIONS THE CONDITIONS FOR THE IMPLEMENTATION OF WHICH ARE LEFT TO A LARGE EXTENT TO THE DISCRETION OF THE MEMBER STATES. IN VIEW OF THE PARTICULARLY LARGE NUMBER OF OPTIONS OPEN TO THE MEMBER STATES UNDER THE DIRECTIVE, THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT IS OF THE OPINION THAT THE DIRECTIVE AS A WHOLE IS INCAPABLE OF PRODUCING ANY EFFECTS WHATEVER IN THE MEMBER STATES BEFORE THE ADOPTION OF THE RELEVANT NATIONAL LEGISLATIVE MEASURES.

14 IN ANY EVENT, AND THIS OPINION IS SHARED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE , BY REASON OF THE MARGIN OF DISCRETION, THE POWERS AND THE OPTIONS WHICH ARTICLE 13 CONFERS UPON THE MEMBER STATES , TO ATTRIBUTE ANY DIRECT EFFECT TO THE PROVISIONS OF THAT ARTICLE .

15 THE FINANZAMT, SUPPORTED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF GERMANY , ALSO DRAWS ATTENTION TO THE COHERENCE OF THE SYSTEM OF TAXATION ESTABLISHED BY THE DIRECTIVE AND , MORE PARTICULARLY TO THE PROBLEMS RESULTING FROM THE CHAIN OF TAXATION, WHICH IS A CHARACTERISTIC OF VALUE-ADDED TAX . IT CONSIDERS THAT IT IS NOT POSSIBLE FOR AN EXEMPTION, SUCH AS THAT PROVIDED FOR BY ARTICLE 13 B ( D ) 1 , TO BE DIVORCED FROM ITS CONTEXT WITHOUT DISRUPTING THE ENTIRE MECHANISM OF THE TAX SYSTEM IN QUESTION .

Questions:


  1. Is the Sixth Directive directly applicable upon the failure to transpose it within the prescribed period by Germany?

  2. Does Article 13b(d)1 meet, in your opinion, the criteria of direct effect? Are the arguments of the French government, Finanzamt etc. sound?

  3. What are the arguments for direct effect of Article 13b(d)1?

WYROK TRYBUNAŁU (wielka izba)

z dnia 4 lipca 2006 r.(*)

Dyrektywa 1999/70/WE − Klauzula 1 lit. b) oraz klauzula 5 Porozumienia ramowego w sprawie pracy na czas określony − Kolejne umowy o pracę na czas określony w sektorze publicznym − Pojęcie „kolejnej umowy” i „obiektywnych powodów” uzasadniających ponowne zawarcie takich umów − Środki mające na celu zapobieganie nadużyciom − Sankcje − Zakres obowiązku dokonywania wykładni prawa krajowego w sposób zgodny z prawem wspólnotowym

W sprawie C 212/04

mającej za przedmiot wniosek o wydanie, na podstawie art. 234 WE, orzeczenia w trybie prejudycjalnym, złożony przez Monomeles Protodikeio Thessalonikis (Grecja) postanowieniem z dnia 8 kwietnia 2004 r., które wpłynęło do Trybunału w dniu 17 maja 2004 r., w postępowaniu:



Konstantinos Adeneler i inni przeciwko Ellinikos Organismos Galaktos (ELOG),

 W przedmiocie pierwszego pytania

106    W świetle odpowiedzi udzielonych na pierwsze trzy pytania przedstawione przez sąd krajowy, z których wynika, że w takich okolicznościach jak w postępowaniu przed sądem krajowym sąd ten może w razie takiej potrzeby dokonać oceny zgodności pewnych mających znaczenie dla sprawy przepisów krajowych z postanowieniami dyrektywy 1999/70 i porozumienia ramowego, należy również udzielić odpowiedzi na pierwsze pytanie.

107    Jak wynika z uzasadnienia postanowienia odsyłającego, pytanie to zmierza zasadniczo do ustalenia z jaką chwilą – w sytuacji dokonania transpozycji dyrektywy do porządku prawnego danego państwa członkowskiego po upływie terminu oraz braku bezpośredniego skutku istotnych postanowień dyrektywy – sądy krajowe są zobowiązane do dokonywania wykładni przepisów prawa wewnętrznego w sposób zgodny z tymi postanowieniami dyrektywy. Sąd krajowy zastanawia się w tym kontekście w szczególności nad znaczeniem dla sprawy daty opublikowania rzeczonej dyrektywy w Dzienniku Urzędowym Wspólnot Europejskich, która odpowiada dacie wejścia w życie dyrektywy w stosunku do będących jej adresatami państw członkowskich, daty upływu terminu na dokonanie transpozycji dyrektywy oraz daty wejścia w życie przepisów krajowych wykonujących postanowienia dyrektywy.

108    Należy przypomnieć, że stosując prawo wewnętrzne, sądy krajowe zobowiązane są tak dalece, jak jest to możliwe, dokonywać jego wykładni w świetle brzmienia i celu rozpatrywanej dyrektywy, by osiągnąć przewidziany w niej rezultat, a zatem dostosować się do art. 249 akapit trzeci WE (zob. w szczególności wyrok z dnia 5 października 2004 r. w sprawach połączonych od C 397/01 do C 403/01 Pfeiffer i in., Rec. str. I 8835, pkt 113 i cytowane tam orzecznictwo). Obowiązek zgodnej wykładni dotyczy wszystkich krajowych przepisów prawnych, zarówno wcześniejszych, jak i późniejszych w stosunku do rozpatrywanej dyrektywy (zob. w szczególności wyroki z dnia 13 listopada 1990 r. w sprawie C 106/89 Marleasing, Rec. str. I 4135, pkt 8, i w ww. sprawie Pfeiffer i in., pkt 115).

109    Wymóg zgodnej wykładni prawa krajowego jest bowiem nieodłączną cechą systemu traktatowego, który umożliwia sądom krajowym zapewnienie w ramach ich właściwości pełnej skuteczności prawa wspólnotowego przy rozstrzyganiu wniesionych przed nie sporów (zob. w szczególności ww. wyrok Pfeiffer i in., pkt 114).

110    Spoczywający na sądzie krajowym obowiązek odniesienia się do treści dyrektywy przy dokonywaniu wykładni i stosowaniu odpowiednich przepisów prawa krajowego jest ograniczony przez ogólne zasady prawa, w szczególności zasadę pewności prawa i braku retroaktywności prawa, i nie może służyć jako podstawa dla dokonywania wykładni prawa krajowego contra legem (zob. podobnie wyrok z dnia 16 czerwca 2005 r. w sprawie C 105/03 Pupino, Rec. p. I 5285, pkt 44 i 47).

111    Zasada zgodnej wykładni wymaga jednakże, by sądy krajowe czyniły wszystko co leży w zakresie ich kompetencji, uwzględniając wszystkie przepisy prawa krajowego i stosując uznane w porządku krajowym metody wykładni, by zapewnić pełną skuteczność rozpatrywanej dyrektywy i dokonać rozstrzygnięcia zgodnego z realizowanymi przez nią celami (zob. ww. wyrok w sprawie Pfeiffer i in., pkt 115, 116, 118 i 119).

112    Ponadto należy przypomnieć, że w przypadku gdy rezultat, który przewiduje dyrektywa, nie może zostać osiągnięty w drodze wykładni, w świetle wyroku z dnia 19 listopada 19991 r. w sprawach połączonych C 6/90 i C 9/90 Francovich i in., Rec. str. I 5357, pkt 39, prawo wspólnotowe nakłada na państwa członkowskie obowiązek naprawienia szkody wyrządzonej jednostkom wskutek braku transpozycji tej dyrektywy, o ile spełnione zostaną trzy przesłanki. Po pierwsze celem takiej dyrektywy musi być nadanie jednostkom uprawnień. Następnie treść tych uprawnień musi wynikać z postanowień tej dyrektywy. Wreszcie musi występować związek przyczynowo-skutkowy pomiędzy naruszeniem ciążącego na państwie członkowskim zobowiązania a poniesioną szkodą (zob. w tym zakresie wyrok z dnia 14 lipca 1994 r. w sprawie C 91/92 Faccini Dori, Rec. str. I 3325, pkt 27).

113    W celu bardziej precyzyjnego określenia daty, w której po stronie sądu krajowego powstaje obowiązek stosowania zasady zgodnej wykładni, należy podkreślić, że obowiązek ten, wynikający z art. 10 akapit drugi WE i art. 240 akapit trzeci WE, jak i z samej dyrektywy, został nałożony w szczególności w przypadku braku bezpośredniej skuteczności postanowień dyrektywy, czy to wobec okoliczności, że odpowiedni przepis dyrektywy nie jest wystarczająco jasny, precyzyjny i bezwarunkowy dla bezpośredniej skuteczności, czy też wobec okoliczności, że stronami sporu są wyłącznie jednostki.

114    Należy dodać, że przed upływem terminu na dokonanie transpozycji dyrektywy państwom członkowskim nie można zarzucić, że nie ustanowiły jeszcze w swych porządkach prawnych środków wykonujących dyrektywę (zob. wyrok z dnia 18 grudnia 1997 r. w sprawie C 129/96 Inter-Environnement Wallonie, Rec. str. I 7411, pkt 43).

115    Wynika z tego, że w razie spóźnionej transpozycji dyrektywy ciążący na sądach krajowych ogólny obowiązek dokonywania wykładni prawa krajowego w sposób zgodny z dyrektywą powstaje z chwilą upływu terminu na dokonanie transpozycji dyrektywy.

116    Z powyższych rozważań w sposób oczywisty wynika, że w razie transpozycji dyrektywy dokonanej po terminie data wskazana przez sąd krajowy w jego pierwszym pytaniu lit. c), z którą krajowe środki służące transpozycji wchodzą w życie w państwie członkowskim, którego dotyczy postępowanie, nie stanowi odpowiedniego kryterium. Rozwiązanie takie podważyłoby bowiem pełną skuteczność prawa wspólnotowego oraz jednolitość stosowania tego prawa, w szczególności za pomocą dyrektyw.

117    Ponadto co się tyczy daty wskazanej w pierwszym pytaniu prejudycjalnym lit. a) i dla celów kompletności rozstrzygnięcia w tym zakresie należy stwierdzić, że z orzecznictwa Trybunału wynika, że przewidziany w art. 10 akapit drugi WE, art. 249 akapit trzeci i w samej dyrektywie obowiązek podjęcia przez państwo członkowskie wszelkich środków koniecznych dla osiągnięcia rezultatu wskazanego w tej dyrektywie, wiąże wszystkie władze krajowe, włącznie z władzą sądowniczą w zakresie jej właściwości (zob. w szczególności ww. wyroki w sprawie Inter-Environnement Wallonie, pkt 40, i Pfeiffer i in., pkt 110 oraz cytowane tam orzecznictwo).

118    Ponadto zgodnie z art. 254 ust. 1 WE dyrektywy są publikowane w Dzienniku Urzędowym Unii Europejskiej i w takim przypadku wchodzą w życie w dniu w nich określonym lub z braku takiego wskazania dwudziestego dnia po ich publikacji bądź są notyfikowane ich adresatom i stają się skuteczne wraz z tą notyfikacją, zgodnie z ust. 3 tegoż artykułu.

119    W świetle powyższego dyrektywa rodzi skutki prawne w odniesieniu do państwa członkowskiego będącego jej adresatem, a przeto wszelkich władz krajowych, w zależności od konkretnego przypadku, po jej opublikowaniu lub z datą notyfikacji.

120    W niniejszej sprawie dyrektywa 1999/70 stanowi w art. 3, że wchodzi ona w życie w dniu jej opublikowania w Dzienniku Urzędowym Wspólnot Europejskich, tj. w dniu 10 lipca 1999 r.

121    W świetle orzecznictwa Trybunału z art. 10 akapit drugi WE w związku z art. 249 akapit trzeci WE i samą dyrektywą wynika, że w okresie przewidzianym na dokonanie transpozycji dyrektywy będące jej adresatami państwa członkowskie są zobowiązane do powstrzymania się od przyjmowania przepisów, których charakter poważnie zagraża osiągnięciu rezultatu wskazanego przez tę dyrektywę (ww. wyrok w sprawie Inter-Environnement Wallonie, pkt 45, wyrok z dnia 8 maja 2003 r. w sprawie C 14/02 ATRAL, Rec. str. I 4431, pkt 58, i ww. wyrok w sprawie Mangold, pkt 67). W tym kontekście nie ma znaczenia, czy sporny przepis prawa krajowego, przyjęty po wejściu w życie niniejszej dyrektywy, służy jej transponowaniu, czy też nie (ww. wyroki w sprawie ATRAL, pkt 59, i w sprawie Mangold, pkt 68).

122    Jako że wszystkie władze państw członkowskich są zobowiązane do zapewnienia pełnej skuteczności postanowień prawa wspólnotowego (zob. ww. wyrok w sprawie Francovich i in., pkt 32, wyrok z dnia 13 stycznia 2004 r. w sprawie C 453/00 Kühne & Heitz, Rec. str. I 837, pkt 20, oraz ww. wyrok w sprawie Pfeiffer i in., pkt 111), wskazany w poprzednim punkcie obowiązek powstrzymania się dotyczy również sądów krajowych.

123    W świetle powyższego począwszy od daty wejścia w życie dyrektywy sądy państw członkowskich zobowiązane są tak dalece jak jest to możliwe do powstrzymania się od dokonywania wykładni prawa wewnętrznego w sposób, który poważnie zagrażałby − po upływie terminu dla jej transpozycji − osiągnięciu wskazanego w niej rezultatu.

124    W świetle powyższych rozważań na pierwsze pytanie należy odpowiedzieć, że w razie dokonania transpozycji dyrektywy do porządku prawnego danego państwa członkowskiego po terminie oraz przy braku bezpośredniej skuteczności odpowiednich przepisów tejże dyrektywy, sądy krajowe są zobowiązane, z chwilą upływu terminu transpozycji, do dokonywania wykładni prawa wewnętrznego tak dalece jak jest to możliwe, w świetle brzmienia dyrektywy i realizowanego przez nią celu, tak by osiągnięte zostały rezultaty wskazane dyrektywą, przychylając się do najbardziej zgodnej z tym celem wykładni przepisów krajowych oraz do przedstawienia rozstrzygnięcia zgodnego z postanowieniami tej dyrektywy.

Pytanie


Jakie są granice pośredniego stosowania prawa wspólnotowego/ obowiązku interpretacji przychylnej prawu wspólnotowemu:

– po upływie okresu transpozycji

– przed upływem okresu transpozycji?

Case

Mr Wagner Miret is a member of the higher management staff of an undertaking which became insolvent. He claims the payment of arrears of remuneration from the Fondo de Garantía Salarial. The directive on the insolvency of employers requires the Member States to adopt the measures necessary to ensure that guarantee institutions guarantee the payment of employees' outstanding claims in the event of their employer' s insolvency.

Under Spanish law a guarantee fund was established by Article 33 of Law 8/80, Employees' Statute, of 10 March 1980, that is to say, before the adoption of the directive on the insolvency of employers. The Spanish courts took the view that the protection established by Article 33 of the Employees' Statute does not apply to higher management staff.

On its accession to the European Communities the Kingdom of Spain did not consider it necessary to amend its national law in order to bring it into line with that directive.

The directive on the insolvency of employers is intended to apply to all categories of employee defined as such by the national law of a Member State, with the exception of those listed in the Annex to the directive. Exercising the option provided for by Article 1(2) of the directive, the Kingdom of Spain requested the exclusion of domestic servants employed by a natural person. This exclusion appears in Section I of the Annex to the directive on the insolvency of employers, as amended, by reason of the accession of the Kingdom of Spain, by Directive 87/164 of 2 March 1987. In contrast, the Kingdom of Spain did not request the inclusion of the category of higher management staff in Section I of the Annex.

Mr Wagner Miret, a member of the higher management staff of CEP Catalana SA, was dismissed under a "redundancy" procedure authorized on 24 November 1989 by the head of the Local Labour Department of the Labour Department of the Autonomous Community of Catalonia. After the company was declared insolvent, he brought an action before the Juzgado de lo Social No 27, Barcelona, to recover the unpaid salary for October and November 1989 and for the appropriate severance payments.


Questions:

  1. Does the directive on insolvency apply to the higher management staff of an undertaking?

  2. May the directive be invoked directly by Mr Miret against the Fondo de Garantía Salarial?

  3. May the directive be invoked by Mr Miret to interpret national law?

  4. Is the Spanish Court obliged to interpret Article 33 of the Employees' Statute to guarantee the application of the directive on insolvency to the higher management staff of an undertaking? Why?

  5. What remedy could be applied in such case?

Joined Cases C-240/98 to C-244/98, Océano Grupo Editorial SA v Roció Murciano Quintero (C-240/98) and Salvat Editores SA v José M. Sánchez Alcón Prades (C-241/98), José Luis Copano Badillo (C-242/98), Mohammed Berroane (C-243/98) and Emilio Viñas Feliú (C-244/98).



Reference for a preliminary ruling: Juzgado de Primera Instancia nº 35 de Barcelona - Spain.

2 The question was raised in two sets of proceedings, between (i) Océano Grupo Editorial SA and Ms Murciana Quintero and (ii) Salvat Editores SA and Mr Sánchez Alcón Prades, Mr Copano Badillo, Mr Berroane and Mr Viñas Feliu. The proceedings concerned the payment of sums due under contracts concluded between the companies and the defendants in the main proceedings for the sale on deferred payment terms of encyclopaedias.


3 The purpose of the Directive is, according to Article 1(1), to approximate the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to unfair terms in contracts concluded between a seller or supplier and a consumer.

4 Article 2 of the Directive provides:

For the purposes of this Directive:

...


(b) "consumer" means any natural person who, in contracts covered by this Directive, is acting for purposes which are outside his trade, business or profession;

(c) "seller or supplier" means any natural or legal person who, in contracts covered by this Directive, is acting for purposes relating to his trade, business or profession, whether publicly owned or privately owned.

5 Article 3(1) of the Directive provides:

A contractual term which has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

6 Article 3(3) of the Directive refers to the Annex to the Directive which is to contain an indicative and non-exhaustive list of the terms which may be regarded as unfair. Paragraph 1 of the Annex refers to Terms which have the object or effect of:

...

(q) excluding or hindering the consumer's right to take legal action or exercise any other legal remedy ...

7 Under Article 6(1) of the Directive:

Member States shall lay down that unfair terms used in a contract concluded with a consumer by a seller or supplier shall, as provided for under their national law, not be binding on the consumer and that the contract shall continue to bind the parties upon those terms if it is capable of continuing in existence without the unfair terms.

8 Article 7 of the Directive provides:

1. Member States shall ensure that, in the interests of consumers and of competitors, adequate and effective means exist to prevent the continued use of unfair terms in contracts concluded with consumers by sellers or suppliers.

2. The means referred to in paragraph 1 shall include provisions whereby persons or organisations, having a legitimate interest under national law in protecting consumers, may take action according to the national law concerned before the courts or before competent administrative bodies for a decision as to whether contractual terms drawn up for general use are unfair, so that they can apply appropriate and effective means to prevent the continued use of such terms.

9 Article 10(1) of the Directive provides that Member States are to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive no later than 31 December 1994.
National law

10 Under Spanish law consumers were initially protected against unfair terms inserted in contracts by sellers and suppliers by the Ley General 26/1984, de 19 de julio, para la Defensa de los Consumidores y Usuarios (General Law No 26/1984 of 19 July 1984 for the Protection of Consumers and Users, Boletín Oficial del Estado No 176, of 24 July 1984, Law No 26/1984).

11 Article 10(1)(c) of Law No 26/1984 provides that terms, conditions or clauses which apply generally in relation to the sale or promotion of products or services must be consistent with the requirement of good faith and must maintain a proper balance between the rights and obligations of the parties, which in any event precludes the use of unfair terms. By virtue of Article 10(4) of Law No 26/1984, unfair terms, which are defined as terms adversely affecting the consumer in a disproportionate or inequitable manner or causing an imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations to the detriment of the consumer, are automatically void.

12 The Directive was fully transposed by Ley 7/1998, de 13 de abril, sobre Condiciones Generales de la Contratación (Law No 7/1998 of 13 April 1998 on General Contractual Conditions, Boletín Oficial del Estado No 89 of 14 April 1998, Law No 7/1998).

13 Article 8 of Law No 7/1998 provides that general conditions which, to the detriment of a party to the contract, infringe the provisions of the Law and, in particular, unfair general conditions in consumer contracts within the meaning of Law No 26/1984 are automatically void.

14 Law No 7/1998 supplements Law No 26/1984 by adding, in particular, Article 10a, paragraph 1 of which substantially reproduces Article 3(1) of the Directive, and an additional provision which essentially sets out the list in the Annex to the Directive of terms which may be regarded as unfair, while indicating that the provision is minimal in character. Under paragraph 27 of the additional provision, a term of a contract expressly conferring jurisdiction on a court or tribunal other than that corresponding to the consumer's domicile or the place of performance of the contract is regarded as unfair.

The main proceedings and the question submitted for a preliminary ruling

15 Between 4 May 1995 and 16 October 1996, each of the defendants in the main proceedings, all of whom are resident in Spain, entered into a contract for the purchase by instalments of an encyclopaedia for personal use. The plaintiffs in the main proceedings are the sellers of the encyclopaedias.

16 The contracts contained a term conferring jurisdiction on the courts in Barcelona (Spain), a city in which none of the defendants in the main proceedings is domiciled but where the plaintiffs in those proceedings have their principal place of business.

17 The purchasers of the encyclopaedias did not pay the sums due on the agreed dates, and, between 25 July and 19 December 1997, the sellers brought actions (juicio de cognición - a summary procedure available only for actions involving limited amounts of money) in the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona to obtain an order that the defendants in the main proceedings should pay the sums due.

18 Notice of the claims was not served on the defendants since the national court had doubts as to whether it had jurisdiction over the actions in question. The national court points out that on several occasions the Tribunal Supremo (Supreme Court) has held jurisdiction clauses of the kind at issue in these proceedings to be unfair. However, according to the court making the reference, the decisions of the national courts are inconsistent on the question of whether the court may, in proceedings concerning consumer protection, determine of its own motion whether an unfair term is void.

(...)


24 It follows that where a jurisdiction clause is included, without being individually negotiated, in a contract between a consumer and a seller or supplier within the meaning of the Directive and where it confers exclusive jurisdiction on a court in the territorial jurisdiction of which the seller or supplier has his principal place of business, it must be regarded as unfair within the meaning of Article 3 of the Directive in so far as it causes, contrary to the requirement of good faith, a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

(...)


26 The aim of Article 6 of the Directive, which requires Member States to lay down that unfair terms are not binding on the consumer, would not be achieved if the consumer were himself obliged to raise the unfair nature of such terms. In disputes where the amounts involved are often limited, the lawyers' fees may be higher than the amount at stake, which may deter the consumer from contesting the application of an unfair term. While it is the case that, in a number of Member States, procedural rules enable individuals to defend themselves in such proceedings, there is a real risk that the consumer, particularly because of ignorance of the law, will not challenge the term pleaded against him on the grounds that it is unfair. It follows that effective protection of the consumer may be attained only if the national court acknowledges that it has power to evaluate terms of this kind of its own motion.

27 Moreover, as the Advocate General pointed out in paragraph 24 of his Opinion, the system of protection laid down by the Directive is based on the notion that the imbalance between the consumer and the seller or supplier may only be corrected by positive action unconnected with the actual parties to the contract. That is why Article 7 of the Directive, paragraph 1 of which requires Member States to implement adequate and effective means to prevent the continued use of unfair terms, specifies in paragraph 2 that those means are to include allowing authorised consumer associations to take action in order to obtain a decision as to whether contractual terms drawn up for general use are unfair and, if need be, to have them prohibited, even if they have not been used in specific contracts.

28 As the French Government has pointed out, it is hardly conceivable that, in a system requiring the implementation of specific group actions of a preventive nature intended to put a stop to unfair terms detrimental to consumers' interests, a court hearing a dispute on a specific contract containing an unfair term should not be able to set aside application of the relevant term solely because the consumer has not raised the fact that it is unfair. On the contrary, the court's power to determine of its own motion whether a term is unfair must be regarded as constituting a proper means both of achieving the result sought by Article 6 of the Directive, namely, preventing an individual consumer from being bound by an unfair term, and of contributing to achieving the aim of Article 7, since if the court undertakes such an examination, that may act as a deterrent and contribute to preventing unfair terms in contracts concluded between consumers and sellers or suppliers.

29 It follows from the above that the protection provided for consumers by the Directive entails the national court being able to determine of its own motion whether a term of a contract before it is unfair when making its preliminary assessment as to whether a claim should be allowed to proceed before the national courts.

(...)
31 Since the court making the reference is seised of a case falling within the scope of the Directive and the facts giving rise to the case postdate the expiry of the period allowed for transposing the Directive, it therefore falls to that court, when it applies the provisions of national law outlined in paragraphs 10 and 11 above which were in force at the material time, to interpret them, as far as possible, in accordance with the Directive and in such a way that they are applied of the court's own motion.

32 It is apparent from the above considerations that the national court is obliged, when it applies national law provisions predating or postdating the said Directive, to interpret those provisions, so far as possible, in the light of the wording and purpose of the Directive. The requirement for an interpretation in conformity with the Directive requires the national court, in particular, to favour the interpretation that would allow it to decline of its own motion the jurisdiction conferred on it by virtue of an unfair term.


Questions:

  1. Did the Court introduce a new Community remedy in this case? Which case does it resemble?

  2. Which provisions of Spanish law does the ECJ propose to interpret?

  3. How is the Directive applied in the present case (is that horizontal incidental effect case or indirect horizontal effect case, or objective effect case)?

Case - Directives transposition/ consequences
Between April 1990 and 1 January 1993 the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food systematically refused to issue licences for the export to Spain of live animals for slaughter on the ground that their treatment in Spanish slaughterhouses was contrary to Council Directive 74/577/EEC of 18 November 1974 on stunning of animals before slaughter (OJ 1974 L 316, p. 10, hereinafter "the Directive").

As is clear from its preamble, the Directive, which is based on Articles 43 and 100 of the EEC Treaty, is intended to remove the disparities between the legislation of Member States in the field of protection of animals which directly affect the functioning of the common market. It also seeks, in general, to avoid all forms of cruelty to animals and, as a first step, to avoid all unnecessary suffering on the part of animals when being slaughtered. Articles 1 and 2 of the Directive require Member States to ensure the stunning, by appropriate approved methods, of animals for slaughter of the following species: bovine animals, swine, sheep, goats and solipeds. The Directive does not harmonize procedures for monitoring compliance with its provisions.

The Kingdom of Spain had to comply with the Directive as from the date of its accession to the Community on 1 January 1986.

The Directive was transposed in Spain by Royal Decree of 18 December 1987 (Boletin Oficial del Estado No 312 of 30 December 1987) which reproduces in particular the provisions of Articles 1 and 2 of the Directive and specifies, as approved methods of stunning, the use of a captive-bolt gun or pistol, electric shock or carbon dioxide. It does not lay down any penalty for breach of its provisions.

Despite the adoption of that decree, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food became convinced, in particular on the basis of information obtained from the Spanish Society for the Protection of Animals, that a number of Spanish slaughterhouses were not complying with the rules contained in the Directive, either because they did not have the necessary equipment for stunning animals or because the equipment was not being used correctly or at all. Although it did not have sufficient evidence as to the overall position in Spanish slaughterhouses, the Ministry formed the view that the information in its possession indicated a degree of non-compliance with the Directive such as to create a substantial risk that animals exported to Spain for slaughter would suffer treatment contrary to the Directive.

Following complaints in 1990 by animal welfare groups in the United Kingdom and Spain, the Commission contacted the Spanish authorities and held several meetings with them to discuss the situation in Spain, in particular the absence of punitive measures for non-compliance with the Spanish provisions implementing the Directive. In view of assurances given by the national and regional authorities in Spain regarding the application of the Directive, the Commission decided, in 1992, not to take any action under Article 169 of the EEC Treaty. The Commission informed the United Kingdom authorities that it considered the United Kingdom' s general ban on exports of live animals to Spain to be contrary to Article 34 of the EEC Treaty and not capable of justification under Article 36 of that Treaty.

That general ban was lifted, with effect from 1 January 1993, following a meeting between the United Kingdom' s Chief Veterinary Officer and his Spanish counterpart to review the progress achieved by Spain in giving effect to the Directive and to examine means of ensuring in future that all animals exported from the United Kingdom would be treated in accordance with the Directive. Following those exchanges of views, the two Governments drew up measures to ensure that animals sent from the United Kingdom for immediate slaughter in Spain would be sent only to slaughterhouses which the Spanish authorities had confirmed as meeting Community requirements on animal welfare.

On 7 October 1992 Hedley Lomas applied for an export licence for a quantity of live sheep intended for slaughter in a specified Spanish slaughterhouse. The licence was not issued, even though, according to the information obtained by Hedley Lomas, the slaughterhouse in question had been approved since 1986 and was complying with Community directives on animal welfare and the United Kingdom authorities did not have any evidence to the contrary.

Hedley Lomas brought proceedings before the High Court of Justice in which it seeks, first, a declaration that the refusal by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to grant it an export licence is contrary to Article 34 of the Treaty and, second, damages.

The Ministry does not deny that the refusal to issue the export licence constitutes a quantitative restriction on exports but argues that it was justified under Article 36 of the Treaty and was consequently compatible with Community law.


Questions:

  1. What is the subject matter of the Directive in question?

  2. Does the Directive give any discretion to the MSs in regard to the methods of stunning? Sanctions? Does it leave any legislative choices?

  3. What did the failure of Spain consist in?

  4. Does the UK refusal to issue the export licence constitute a quantitative restriction on exports?

  5. Is it justified under Article 36?

In the present case the United Kingdom authorities' general refusal to grant export licences for Spain was based solely on the conviction that a certain number of Spanish slaughterhouses were not complying with the requirements of the Directive itself and that there was at least a significant risk that animals exported to Spain would undergo, upon slaughter, treatment contrary to the Directive.



Does the Community law preclude a Member State from invoking Article 36 of the Treaty to justify a limitation of exports of goods to another Member State on the sole ground that, according to the first State, the second State is not complying with the requirements of a Community harmonizing directive which pursues an objective which Article 36 is intended to protect, but does not lay down either any procedure for monitoring their application or any penalties in the event of their breach.?
What would be the result for Hedley Lomas of the ECJ finding that UK infringed the EC law?






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