Extension of contractual choice of court to unfair trading practices : Rotterdam in Philipp Plein.

In Philipp Plein, the court at Rotterdam held against the applicability of contractual choice of court to cases involving (alleged) unfair trading practices /infringement of competition law. (The judgment is not entirely clear on how the alleged tort needs to be qualified). I should also rephrase: I am assuming the case involves clothing chain Philipp Plein (‘PP’): this party’s name (albeit with presumably a typoo reported as ‘Philipp Klein’) is mentioned once in the judgment, probably because redacting missed this one particular reference. I find this process of anonimisation rather tiring: I fail to understand why in issues of commercial law, companies should at all be offered anonymity in public recording of the case. But I digress.

PP is domiciled at Lugano. The court is not entirely clear in its distinction between the Brussels I Recast Regulation and the Lugano Convention 2007. For the consideration of choice of court, domicile of the defendant in Switzerland was already immaterial under the Brussels I Regulation, given that one of the parties is domiciled in The Netherlands. The court applies Brussels I Recast and Lugano 2007 more or less jointly, given their similar outcome for the case at issue. Given this parallel application it is quite remarkable that no reference is made to CDC, which emphasised that extension of choice of court to non-contractual liability cannot be assumed. Instead the court here reviews how other parts of PP’s standard terms and conditions are formulated and what impact this has on the clause at issue.

It decides the choice of court clause (which read ‘“If both parties are businessmen, then the place of jurisdiction […] is Nuremberg, Germany”.’) does not extend to non-contractual liability. Parties seemingly agreed that in the event of non-applicability of choice of court, the Court at Rotterdam can hear the case on the basis of Article 5(3) Lugano 2007 (similar to now Article 7(2) Brussels I Recast).

I agree with Bas Braeken and Marianne Meijssen: A good result but an awkward way to go about it.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.9, Heading 2.2.9.7.

 

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The Scottish Government submission to Brexit at the SC, and the EU’s conflict agenda.

For those with an interest in UK constitutional law and its impact on the EU, these evidently are interesting days. I just wanted briefly to flag that the Scottish Government’s submission to the Supreme Court’s Article 50 case contains a short section on the EU’s civil justice agenda. At 48, the submission points out the impact withdrawal will have on the civil justice relations between Scotland, the remainder of the UK, and the EU.

There are plenty of papers out there on the impact of Brexit on conflict of laws. Without the correct arrangements, the UK is bound to lose a lot of its attraction in international dispute settlement. With the falling pound, Christmas shopping in London is particularly attractive to those outside the UK. Forum shopping a lot less so.

Geert.

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Secondary insolvency proceedings in Hanjin Europe. Plenty held, plenty assumed.

The Rotterdam court in Hanjin Europe held on the opening of secondary proceedings in The Netherlands, in application of the European Insolvency Regulation (EIR), with main proceedings and COMI in Germany. On the application of the insolvency Regulation there are few that match prof Wessels’ insights and I am happy to refer to them. Indeed it is Bob who alerted me to the case. Prof Wessels in particular points us to the following considerations:

  • the relationship between Annex A, Annex C and the abstract definition of ‘insolvency’ in the EIR. Useful precedent is Eurofood.
  • the power of a provisionary liquidator to request the opening of secondary proceedings.
  • the exact meaning of ‘establishment’, inter alia following judgment in Interedil.
  • whether applicant has to show an interest in requesting secondary proceedings.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5.

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You are having a laugh? ECJ declares loo rolls are packaging.

Apologies for the truly misleading title. Trumpism and Brexitism is getting to me. Yes, it sounds awkward to hold that a tube which is at the very inside of  product can be categorised as ‘packaging’. Yet it fits completely within the fabric of the EU’s Packaging and packaging and packaging waste Directive 94/62 (as amended).

The CJEU held 2 weeks ago in Joined Cases C‑313/15 and C‑530/15 Eco-Emballages et al., on the issue whether Rolls, tubes and cylinders around which flexible material is wound (‘Roll cores’) are ‘packaging’ within the meaning of the Directive, hence subject to recycling etc. targets and also to fees under collective schemes. The Directive defines packaging as

all products made of any materials of any nature to be used for the containment, protection, handling, delivery and presentation of goods, from raw materials to processed goods, from the producer to the user or the consumer. ‘Non-returnable’ items used for the same purposes shall also be considered to constitute packaging.

‘Packaging’ consists only of:

(a) sales packaging or primary packaging, i.e. packaging conceived so as to constitute a sales unit to the final user or consumer at the point of purchase;

(b) grouped packaging or secondary packaging, i.e. packaging conceived so as to constitute at the point of purchase a grouping of a certain number of sales units whether the latter is sold as such to the final user or consumer or whether it serves only as a means to replenish the shelves at the point of sale; it can be removed from the product without affecting its characteristics;

(c) transport packaging or tertiary packaging, i.e. packaging conceived so as to facilitate handling and transport of a number of sales units or grouped packagings in order to prevent physical handling and transport damage. Transport packaging does not include road, rail, ship and air containers….

This definitional article then continues with references to an illustrative Annex and an update of this Annex by way of comitology. Any such measures are adopted in accordance with the regulatory procedure with scrutiny, resulting in a new, 2013 Annex 1 to the Directive adopted by the Commission in February 2013, which specifically refers to rolls. At issue in the case was therefore whether the EC had acted ultra vires in that annex (which it had adopted ‘alone’ since the committee established by Article 21 of Directive 94/62 did not deliver an opinion and the Council did not take any decision on the Commission’s proposal).

The Court confirms that roll cores meet entirely with the core definition of the Directive: they protect from the inside the flexible products wound around them, which strengthens those products, allowing their presentation and facilitating their transport and use. A roll core is, moreover, a ‘non-returnable’ item, within the meaning of the second sentence of the first subparagraph of Article 3(1), once the flexible product wound around it has been used up.

A storm in a tea-cup therefore and rolls confirmed as packaging.

Geert.

(Handbook of EU Waste law, second ed. OUP 2015, Chapter 4).

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Schmidt v Schmidt: CJEU confirms Kokott AG’s views on forum rei sitae & forum connexitatis in Brussels I Recast.

Much as expected, the Court has this week confirmed Kokott AG’s views on Article 24(1) and Article 8(4) Brussels I Recast. Please refer to my review of the Advocate General’s Opinion for detail of the case.

A request for voidance of a contract of gift of immovable property, on grounds of incapacity, is not covered by Article 24(1). The fact that the contract for which a declaration of invalidity is sought concerns immovable property is irrelevant to the issue of its validity, the immovable nature of the subject matter of the contract being only of marginal significance in that context (at 36). This does not endanger the ratio legis of Article 24(1): by ruling on the request for the avoidance of a contract of gift on the ground of the donor’s incapacity to contract, the court before which the dispute is brought is not required to carry out investigations strictly related to the immovable property concerned so as to justify an application of the rule of exclusive jurisdiction provided for in that article (at 37). In the present case, the action in the main proceedings is based on the alleged invalidity of the contractual obligation consisting of the conveyance of ownership of the immovable property, which, provided that the contract is valid, must be, and which was initially, performed in Austria. This therefore establishes jurisdiction for that court on the basis of Article 7(1) a of the Brussels I Recast.

The separate request for removal from the land register of the donee’s right of ownership, in turn is based on the invalidity of the conveyance of ownership and, therefore, on the right in rem relied on by the applicant in the main proceedings in the immovable property concerned:this action is covered by Article 24(1). This latter court may also rule on the request for voidance: there is a connection between the claims pursuant to Article 8(4) of Regulation 1215/2012. Unlike the AG, the CJEU does not add that this possibility for joinder must not be abused, however there is no reason why the prohibition of abuse must not apply to Article 8(4). Given the possibility of joinder, a race to court of course is triggered between, in this case, father and daughter.

Schmidt v Schmidt is once again a useful reminder for courts and notaries alike, not to shy away from contracts, gifts, matrimonial property etc. simply because it involves real estate located elsewhere. Plenty of the legal issues surrounding such constructions can be perfectly dealt with outside the locus rei sitae.

Geert.

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On a road to somewhere. The EJC on CEN standards in James Elliott Construction v Irish Asphalt

Case C-613/14 James Elliott illustrates that the EU’s ‘New Approach’ to harmonisation is alive and well more than 30 years after its launch. The judgment is best read in its entirety and against the background of the New Approach, following the Court’s judgment in Cassis de Dijon and the introduction of qualified majority voting in the European Single Act.

The Court confirms the important place which CEN-standards occupy in EU law, despite them being private standards, and clarifies the exact impact which these standards have in private relations.

One for harmonisation anoraks.

Geert.

 

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The City never closes? The High Court on COB in Lehman Brothers.

Lehman Brothers [2016] EWHC 2699 (Comm) does not involve conflict of laws. Yet its discussion of the notion of ‘close of business’ reminded me of the relevance of Article 12(2) Rome I:

In relation to the manner of performance and the steps to be taken in the event of defective performance, regard shall be had to the law of the country in which performance takes place.

Lex loci solutionis supplements lex contractus for factual considerations such as closing times.

In the case at issue, between parties, a notice had to be served ‘by close of business’. A relevant fax transmission started at 5:54 PM and ended at 6:02 PM. Close of business by sender, it was alleged, was understood to be 7 PM. Recipient claimed COB was 5 PM. Blair J in para 147 ff justifiably points to the intention of flexibility behind the notion of COB: had parties wanted a precise cut-off time, they would and should have specified it. The High Court therefore relied on the (little) evidence given as to COB and accepted that in the modern world of commercial banking and even leaving aside the near non-existence of closing hours for investment bankers and the like, more or less 7 PM should be considered COB. (It was specifically stated that no precedent value can be attached to that time slot).

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 3.

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