Posts Tagged CJEU
Qualifying ‘consumers’ on social media and in the case of assignment. Bobek AG in Schrems v Facebook.
Bobek AG must have picked up his knack for colourful language at Teddy Hall. His Opinion last week in C-498/16 Schrems v Facebook is a delight and one does best service to it by simply inviting one reads it. Now, that must not absolve me of my duty to report succinctly on its contents – the Court itself I imagine will be equally short shrift with claimant’s arugments.
When I asked my students in the August exam to comment on the case, I simply gave them the preliminary questions and asked them how the CJEU should answer them:
1 Is Article 15 of Regulation 44/2001 to be interpreted as meaning that a ‘consumer’ within the meaning of that provision loses that status, if, after the comparatively long use of a private Facebook account, he publishes books in connection with the enforcement of his claims, on occasion also delivers lectures for remuneration, operates websites, collects donations for the enforcement of his claims and has assigned to him the claims of numerous consumers on the assurance that he will remit to them any proceeds awarded, after the deduction of legal costs?
2. Is Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001 to be interpreted as meaning that a consumer in a Member State can also invoke at the same time as his own claims arising from a consumer supply at the claimant’s place of jurisdiction the claims of others consumers on the same subject who are domiciled
a. In the same Member State, b. In another Member State: or c. In a non-Member State,
if the claims assigned to him arise from consumer supplies involving the same defendant in the same legal context and if the assignment is not part of a professional or trade activity of the applicant, but rather serves to ensure the joint enforcement of claims?
The long and the short of the case is whether the concept of ‘consumer’ under the protected categories of Brussels I (and Recast) is a dynamic or a static one; and what kind of impact assignment has on jurisdiction for protected categories.
On the first issue, I expected my students to point to the CJEU’s precedent of applying the Regulation with a view to predictability and legal certainty; specifically for consumers, to Gruber and the burden of proof in cases of dual use; and to the Court’s judgment in Emrek. Other than the last issue, the AG points to all. Predictability points to a static approach: I would suggest the AG is right. Bobek AG does leave the door ajar for a dynamic interpretation: at 39: in exptional cases, a ‘dynamic’ approach to consumer status should not be entirely excluded. This could be potentially relevant in the event that a contract does not specify its aim, or it is open to different uses, and it lasts a long period of time, or is even indeterminate. It is conceivable that in such cases, the purpose for which a certain contractual service is used might change — not just partially, but even completely. Social media contracts may lead to such circumstances, one imagines, however there would be many ifs and buts to such analysis: including, I would suggest, the terms of the contract wich the service provider initially drew up.
On the issue of assignment the AG’s approach is entirely logical and not surprising: evidently Herr Schrems cannot have claims assigned to him and then exercise those claims using any other jurisdictional prerogatives then present in the original claim. While these may allow him to sue in the forum actoris of the original consumer, there is no valid argument whatsoever to suggest he could join them to his own domicile. The arguments made de lege ferenda (need for forum shopping in collective consumer redress) are justifiably rejected.
(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 18.104.22.168.
Right to be forgotten v Right to know. In Townsend v Google Inc and Google UK the Northern Irish High Court emphasises public interest in open justice.
In  NIQB 81 Townsend v Google Inc. & Anor the Northern Ireland High Court refused service our of jurisdiction in relation to a request for Google (UK and Inc.) to de-list a number of urls relating to reports on sexual and other criminal offences committed by plaintiff.
Plaintiff seeks an injunction inter alia requiring the defendants and each of them to withdraw and remove personal data relating to the plaintiff, making reference to or tending to reveal sexual offences committed by the plaintiff while a child, from their data processing and indexing systems and to prevent access to such personal data in the future. The Court references ia Vidal-Hall and Google Spain. I will leave readers to digest the ruling largely for themselves for there is a lot in there: consideration of Article 8 ECHR; Directive 95/46; aforementioned precedent; tort law etc.
Of particular note is Stephens J’s finding at 61 that ‘(t)here is a clear public interest in open justice. There is a clear right to freedom of expression. In such circumstances the processing was not unwarranted and that there is no triable issue in relation to any allegation that Google Inc. has not satisfied this condition.’
A judgment to add to the growing pile of internet, jurisdiction and balancing of interests in privacy considerations.
When I reviewed Kokott AG’s Opinion in C-106/16 Polbud, I flagged that Ms Kokott concluded that the freedom of establishment provided for in Articles 49 and 54 TFEU only applies to an operation whereby a company incorporated under the law of one Member State transfers its statutory seat to another Member State with the aim of converting itself into a company governed by the law of the latter Member State, in so far as that company actually establishes itself in the other Member State, or intends to do so, for the purpose of pursuing genuine economic activity there. In other words she proposed a test along the lines suggested by Darmon AG in Daily Mail, but rejected by La Pergola AG in Centros.
The CJEU today held along La Pergola lines. It thus indeed facilitates forum /applicable (lex societatis) shopping (argument made also by Gillis Lindemans) for companies. The writing was very clearly on the wall when the Court (in Grand Chamber nota bene) started citing the old chestnuts of Daily Mail, Centros and Inspire Art. That no business is actually being conducted by Polbud in the host Member State is viewed by the court as irrelevant (at 37 ff). In the absence of harmonisation of EU law, the definition of the connecting factor that determines the national law applicable to a company or firm falls, in accordance with Article 54 TFEU, within the powers of each Member State (at 34).
Freedom of establishment is applicable (third question); that freedom has been restricted (first question); and that restriction (transfer of the registered office of a company incorporated under the law of one Member State to the territory of another Member State, for the purposes of its conversion into a company incorporated under the law of the latter Member State, in accordance with the conditions imposed by the legislation of that Member State, is subject to the liquidation of the first company) is not justifiable (second question).
(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 7.
When the ‘Bolkestein’ Directive on the free movement of services was eventually adopted some years back, some of us referred to it as the ‘hairdressers’ Directive (no disrespect): the scope of application was so narrowed down that few professions seemed still to be covered by it. Similarly, the EU’s Succession Regulation Member States wanted to ensure that the recognition and enforcement of rules on succession /estate would not upset national property law on rules held dear, such as numerus clausus. The Regulation to that effect excludes from its scope of application ‘the nature of rights in rem; and any recording in a register of rights in immoveable or moveable property, including the legal requirements for such recording, and the effects of recording or failing to record such rights in a register.’
In C-218/16 Kubicka the Court of Justice held last week. Ms Kubicka wishes to include in her will a legacy ‘by vindication’, which is allowed by Polish law, in favour of her husband, concerning her share of ownership of the jointly-owned immovable property in Frankfurt an der Oder. She wishes to leave the remainder of the assets that comprise her estate in accordance with the statutory order of inheritance, whereby her husband and children would inherit it in equal shares. She expressly ruled out recourse to an ordinary legacy (legacy ‘by damnation’), as provided for by Article 968 of the Civil Code, since such a legacy would entail difficulties in relation to the representation of her minor children, who will inherit, as well as additional costs. A notary’s assistant refused to draw up a will containing the legacy ‘by vindication’ stipulated by Aleksandra Kubicka on the ground that creation of a will containing such a legacy is contrary to German legislation and case-law relating to rights in rem and land registration.
In the present case, both the legacy ‘by vindication’, provided for by Polish law and the legacy ‘by damnation’, provided for by German law, constitute methods of transfer of ownership of an asset, namely a right in rem that is recognised in both of the legal systems concerned. Therefore, the direct transfer of a property right by means of a legacy ‘by vindication’ concerns only the arrangement by which that right in rem is transferred at the time of the testator’s death. It is not covered by the exception.
Member States and practitioners who suggested an interpretation of the exception beyond its limited scope, were therefore rebuffed. That is a good thing. Property law often for no apparent reason is considered immune from conflict of laws, both in terms of jurisdiction and applicable law. The CJEU’s judgment in Kubicka puts a hold to too wide an interpretation of the rei sitae exception.
(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 6, Heading 22.214.171.124.
I reported on Sharpston AG’s Opinion in C-413/15 Farrell just before the summer break. The case considers the C-188/89 Foster criteria on what constitutes an ’emanation from the state’, for Directives to potentially have direct effect in individuals’ relations with that body. The CJEU held last week, in Grand Chamber, and decided the criteria apply disjunctively, not conjunctively. It is sufficient that the private body concerned have special powers beyond those which result from the normal rules applicable to relations between individuals; it need not, additionally, be a body under control of the State.
The Irish legislature conferred on the MIBI (Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland) special powers beyond those which result from the normal rules applicable to relations between individuals, in that, on the basis of that statutory provision, that private organisation has the power to require all those insurers to become members of it and to contribute funds for the performance of the task conferred on it by the Irish State.
A further and important piece in the jigsaw that is direct effect. Next up no doubt: what exactly are the boundaries of ‘special powers’. Conflicts lawyers may recognise some of the discussions surrounding ‘civil and commercial’.