The CJEU yet again, and briefly, on ‘civil and commercial’ in Brussels Ia. Eurelec Trading: when do competition and fair trading authorities act acta iure imperii.

The Court of Justice yesterday held, without Opinion AG (justifiably in my view), in Case C-98/22 Eurelec Trading Sarl, on yet again the interpretation of ‘civil and commercial’ to determine the scope of application of Brussels Ia.

The dispute in the main proceedings is between the Ministre français de lʼÉconomie et des Finances and two Belgian companies: Eurelec, a pricing and purchasing negotiation centre founded by the French Leclerc group and the German Rewe group, and Scabel, which acts as an intermediary between Eurelec and the French and Portuguese regional purchasing centres of the Leclerc group. Two French undertakings are also parties to the dispute: the Leclerc groupʼ national purchasing centre which negotiates the annual framework contracts with the French suppliers (ʻGALECʼ) and the association of E Leclerc distribution centres (ʻACDLECʼ).

Following an investigation conducted between 2016 and 2018, the Economic Affairs and Finance Minister suspected that potentially restrictive practices were being implemented in Belgium by Eurelec in respect of suppliers established in France. The Minister brought an action against those four companies before the Paris courts,  seeking a declaration ia that the practices consisting in (i) requiring suppliers to accept Belgian law as lex contractus (said to circumvent French lois de police), and (ii) imposing seriously reduced returns, were abusive.

The French Government argue with reference to CJEU Movic that ʻacting in the general interest should not be confused with the exercise of public powersʼ, and that one should distinguish the inquiry stage from the judicial proceedings, in particular, that the criterion for applicability of the Brussels Ia Regulation is the use made of evidence and not the rules for collecting it.

The CJEU disagrees. [26] the claim is based on evidence procured during searches which an ordinary litigation party cannot make resort to, and [27] the procedure at issue involves ia an administrative (not a criminal) fine being sought, which is not a request than can be made by an ordinary civil party. [29] The procedure is one which follows from acta iure imperii, the exercise of public power. [29] CJEU Movic is distinguished for in that case no fine was being sought, merely an end to the restrictive practices as well as damages, which both are claims that can also be made by ordinary parties. The latter once again means that depending on what is included in a claim, BIa may or may not be engaged.

Geert.

European Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, paras 2.28 ff concluding at 2.65.

One Reply to “The CJEU yet again, and briefly, on ‘civil and commercial’ in Brussels Ia. Eurelec Trading: when do competition and fair trading authorities act acta iure imperii.”

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