Posts Tagged definition

Schrems v Facebook. Consumer class actions and social media.

I reported on Bobek AG’s Opinion in Schrems v Facebook when it came out last year. The CJEU held this morning (judgment so far in FR and DE only) and largely confirms the AG’s Opinion.

As I noted at the time, 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, Mr Schrems points to his history as a user, first having set up a personal account, subsequently, as he became the poster child for opposition to social media’s alleged infringement of privacy, a Facebook page. Each of those, he suggests, are the object of a separate contract with Facebook. FB suggests they are part of one and the same, initial contractual relationship. This one assumes, would assist FB with its line of argument that Herr Schrems’ initial use may have been covered by the forum consumentis, but that his subsequent professional use gazumps that initial qualification.

The Court suffices at 36 with the simple observation that the qualification as a single or dual contract is up to the national court (see inter alia the Gabriel, Engler and Ilsinger conundrum: Handbook, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.1.a and generally the difficulties for the CJEU to force a harmonised notion of ‘contract’ upon the Member States), yet that nevertheless any such qualification needs to take into account the principles of interpretation of Brussels I’s protected categories: in particular, their restrictive interpretation. Whence it follows, the Court holds, that the interpretation needs to be dynamic, taking into account the subsequent (professional or not) use of the service: at 37-38: ‘il y a notamment lieu de tenir compte, s’agissant de services d’un réseau social numérique ayant vocation à être utilisés pendant une longue durée, de l’évolution ultérieure de l’usage qui est fait de ces services. Cette interprétation implique, notamment, qu’un requérant utilisateur de tels services pourrait invoquer la qualité de consommateur seulement si l’usage essentiellement non professionnel de ces services, pour lequel il a initialement conclu un contrat, n’a pas acquis, par la suite, un caractère essentiellement professionnel.’

The Court does add at 39-40 that acquired or existing knowledge of the sector or indeed the mere involvement in collective representation of the interests of the service’s users, has no impact on the qualification as a ‘consumer’: only professional use of the service does. (The Court in this respect refers to Article 169(1) TFEU’s objective to assist consumers with the representation of their collective interest).

On this point therefore the Court unlike the AG attaches more weight to restrictive interpretation than to predictability. (Bobek AG’s approach to the issue of dynamic /static was expressed more cautiously).

As for the assignment issue, the Court sides squarely with its AG: the assigned claims cannot be pursued in the jurisdiction which is the domicile of the assignee. That in my view de lega lata makes perfect sense.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.2.

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Szpunar AG in Schlömp on the concept of ‘court’ (and lis alibi pendens) in the Lugano Convention. Caution: tongue-twister (Schlichtungsbehörde).

Update 4 January 2018 the CJEU held late December and confirmed the functional approach at 53 juncto 57.

I was delighted to learn something I had not been aware of in Szpunar AG’s Opinion in C-467/16 Brigitte Schlömp: namely the slightly diverging approach to the notion of ‘court’ in Brussels cq Lugano.

The AG also opines on the question of lis alibi pendens, suggesting (at 48) that since the conciliation procedure before the Behörd constitutes an integral part of proceedings before a(n) (ordinary) court, the moment of seizure of the Schlichtungsbehörde is the determining moment under the lis alibi pendens provisions of Articles 27 and 30 of the Lugano II Convention. [He also refers to [2014] EWHC 2782 (Ch) Lehman Brothers Finance AG v Klaus Tschira Stiftung GmbH & Anor  which followed the same approach].

Is the Swiss ‘Schlichtungsbehörde’ or conciliation authority, intervening in disputes between local councils and relatives with respect to maintenance and social care payments, a ‘court’ under Lugano?

Ms Schlömp, who resides in Switzerland, is the daughter of Ms H.S., who receives supplementary social assistance from the Landratsamt Schwäbisch Hall (administrative authority of the district of Schwäbisch Hall) in Germany because of her care requirements. Under German law (indeed similarly in many a Member State), benefits handed out by social welfare bodies, are claim back from children of recipients, subject to ability to pay. To assert its claim for recovery, the German welfare body lodged an application for conciliation in regard to Ms Schlömp with the conciliation authority (‘Schlichtungsbehörde’), competent under Swiss law. What follows is a series of procedures left, right, even centre. Their exact order is outlined by the AG, they matter less for this post: what is relevant to my own insight, is whether a Schlichtungsbehörde under Swiss law is covered by the term ‘court’ within the scope of Articles 27 and 30 of the Lugano II Convention.

Here comes my moment of surprise: at 58: ‘the concept of ‘court’ in the Lugano II Convention differs from that in Regulations No 44/2001 and No 1215/2012, as that Convention contains an article which has no parallel in the latter two instruments: Article 62 of the Lugano II Convention states that the expression ‘court’ is to include any authorities designated by a State bound by that convention as having jurisdiction in the matters falling within the scope of that convention.’ Like in recent case-law under the Brussels I Recast, bodies which prima facie are outside the judicial system, may be considered ‘courts’. A confirmation of the functional as opposed to the formal classification approach.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.16.1.1.

 

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments

Delta Lloyd v Witsen (in re Kontiki): On the relevance of tidiness in GTCS.

Thank you Stefanie Roosen for flagging the issue in what after a bit of searching I take it to be Delta Lloyd v Witsen. At issue is not immediately a conflict of laws concern however the case does highlight a discussion often occurring with respect to choice of court and choice of law: when do mere references to general terms and conditions (GTCS) become binding upon parties, all the more so when these refer to industry standards. Here: HISWA standards, the ‘Nederlandsche Vereeniging voor Handel en Industrie op het Gebied van Scheepsbouw en Watersport’ est.1932.  The Netherlands are a seafaring nation: HISWA is big.

During repairs to the yacht Kontiki, the rear cable of the shipyard’s portal crane broke, the Kontiki fell and she suffered severe damage. The shipyard had in the course of negotiation, agreement and confirmation referred to no less than three different HISWA sets. The Rechtbank Noord-Holland held that as a result, none was validly incorporated into the contract (neither incidentally was a mere sign quayside, limiting liability).

As I have reported on this blog before (e.g. here), there is no magic wand when it comes to GTCS: all that is required is due diligence. Neat filing and dito reference. Electronically or otherwise: it is elementary for all things legal.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.9.3.1.

, , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

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).

, , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Meroni: Mareva orders are compatible with EU law (ordre public).

For the facts of the case, and the reasoning of the AG in C-559/14 Meroni, I refer to my earlier posting. At the end of May (I am indeed still hoovering up the queue) the Court held very much alongside Kokott AG’s Opinion, I shall therefore not repeat its reasoning here. The CJEU does insist that if third parties rights are directly affected with the intensity as in the case at issue, that third person must be entitled to assert his rights before the court of origin (which English courts provide for), lest one runs the risk of the injunction being refused recognition under ordre public. As I had feared, the Court does not address the AG’s concern whether Mareva orders actually constitute a ‘judgment’ for the purposes of the Regulation.

Post Brexit, this considerable attraction of English courts in interlocutory proceedings might become a lot less real. (Like many of us, I am working on a short review of Brexit consequences for European private international law).

Geert.

(Handbook of) European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 2, 2.2.16.1.1, 2.2.16.1.4

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

Kokott AG on the notion of ‘judgment’ and the compatibility of Mareva orders with EU law (ordre public).

In Kokott AG’s words, ‘following the West Tankers case…in the present case the Court is once again confronted with a specific procedural feature of the Anglo-American legal system.’

Article 34 of the Brussels I Regulation (Article 35 in the recast) enables a court, by way of derogation from the principles and objectives of the Regulation, to refuse to recognize a judgment given by a court of another Member State. The whole starting point of the Regulation and its antecedents was to avoid much recourse to refusal of recognition. Free movement of judgments lies at the very core of the foundations of European private international law.

Little wonder then that the Regulation leaves limited freedom for Member States authorities (including courts) who are asked to recognise and enforce another State’s judgment. As I noted at the time, in Trade Agency the CJEU insisted that refusal of recognition on the basis of ordre public is only possible after review of the individual merits of the case. Courts in other EU Member States may not decide that the English system as such as contrary to public policy in the state of enforcement. Relevant case-law was most recently summarised by (the same) Kokott AG in fly LAL and also in Diageo.

The exequatur procedure of the Brussels I Regulation has been amended in the Brussels I Recast. However it is exactly on issues of the rights of the defence that exequatur can never be entirely automatic, even among EU Member States.

In Case C-559/14 Meroni, at issue are Mareva injunctions: (sometimes) worldwide freezing orders issued by English courts (among others), designed to prevent a creditor being deprived of access to the debtor’s assets as a result of a prior disposal of those assets. However, as is often the case, the reputation of Mareva injunctions far exceeds their actual bite. There is no one size fits all such injunction and a number of tools are at the disposal of both the debtor affected, and third parties, to have the order varied or indeed lifted. The rights of third parties in particular are quite relevant in the current review with the CJEU. Part of the injunction are often the debtor’s participations in companies: for the recalcitrant debtor may find all sorts of useful ways to spirit value away from his companies and into vaults safe from prying English or European eyes – especially if the debtor is sole or majority shareholder.

In the case at issue, Mr A.L. is prohibited, inter alia, from disposing of assets which can be attributed directly or indirectly to his property. The injunction extends to  interests in the Latvian company VB. Mr A.L. has a direct interest in that company with only one share. According to the referring court, however, he is also the ‘beneficial owner’ of shares in at least one other company (‘Y’), which itself has substantial interests in VB. Mr Meroni is part of the management of Y. Following a seizure ordered by the relevant Latvian office, he also acts as the bailee for the interests in Y. for which Mr A.L. is the beneficial owner. Mr Meroni claims that the freezing injunction prevents the shareholder Y. from exercising its voting rights in respect of VB. This affects constitutionally protected property rights, especially since the company was not heard in the English proceedings. This, it is argued, is contrary to the principle of the right to a fair trial.

The AG Opined differently. At 44, she argues that it is not clear to what extent that injunction might be contrary to basic principles of Latvian substantive law or procedural law, especially since, as the referring court acknowledges, the Latvian legal order does permit judgments as provisional measures without a prior hearing of the party against whom enforcement is sought. Consequently measures such as Mareva orders cannot be said to be fundamentally against the Latvian ordre public. At 45: ‘ Aside from this, the English freezing injunction at issue does not provide for any irreversibly drastic measures for its enforcement overseas, in particular in so far as third persons who were not parties to the proceedings in England are concerned. Rather, the freezing injunction claims legal effects on third persons resident in other countries — and thus the companies controlled by Mr A.L. — only subject to strict requirements: first, it is to have legal effects on a without notice basis only where this is permitted by the foreign law; second, anyone served with the freezing injunction may apply to the court to vary or discharge it; and, third, compliance with contractual obligations in other countries is still to be possible notwithstanding the freezing injunction.‘ (footnotes omitted)

There is no evident breach of basic principles of the legal order of the State in which enforcement is sought – breach of ordre public must therefore be rejected.

Now, earlier in the judgment, the AG also considers albeit more or less obiter (the CJEU is certain not to entertain it) what may in fact be the more important (for it tends to be less sub judice at the CJEU) part of her Opinion: whether the Mareva orders actually constitute a ‘judgment’ for the purposes of the Regulation. Ms Kokott suggests that the Denilauler criteria (easily fulfilled in the case at issue: see para 31) ought to be relaxed under the Regulation, as opposed to the stricter approach under the 1968 Convention. That is because following judgment in ASML, notwithstanding defects in service, if the person concerned fails to commence proceedings in the State of origin of the judgment to challenge the judgment issued upon default, when it was possible for him to do so, recognition may not be refused. The AG suggests to extend the ASML rule to provisional measures.

Geert.

European private international law, second ed. 2016, Chapter 2, 2.2.16.1.1, 2.2.16.1.4

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

I ask ergo I find out? Not necessarily so after judgment in Ergo Insurance and Gjensidige Baltic (distinguishing between contract and tort).

Is the relationship between two insurers, having covered liability for a towing vehicle cq a trailer, each subrogated in their insured’s rights and obligations, one of them currently exercising a claim against the other in partial recovery of the compensation due to the victim, non-contractual? That is the issue in Joined Cases C‑359/14 and C‑475/14 Ergo.

I reviewed Sharpston AG’s Opinion here. I believe the Court has confirmed her Opinion. However I am not entirely certain for the judgment is awkwardly phrased.

Like its AG, the CJEU dismisses a suggestion that Directive 2009/103 (relating to insurance against civil liability in respect of the use of motor vehicles, and the enforcement of the obligation to insure against such liability) includes a conflict of laws (applicable law) rule which is lex specialis vis-a-vis the Rome I Regulation. Indeed the Directive’s provisions do not indicate whatsoever that they can be stretched.

Then comes the core of the issue, the nature of the relationship underlying the claim. The AG had suggested this is contractual, using as I noted in my earlier posting, ‘centre of gravity’ (‘the centre of gravity of the obligation to indemnify is in the contractual obligation’); ‘rooted in’ (‘the recourse action by one insurer against the other…is rooted in the contracts of insurance’); and ‘intimately bound up’ (‘[the action] is intimately bound up with the two insurers’ contractual obligation‘). (at 62).

The Court did not repeat any of this terminology. It first suggests that the national court where the case is pending, needs to determine using Article 4 of Rome II (lex locus damni) whether the law so determined ‘provides for apportionment of the obligation to compensate for the damage’. This the AG had not expressly pondered, rather it may be implicit in her use of the conditional ‘where two or more insurers are jointly and severally liable’ ((only) used at 71 of her Opinion). Next, the Court holds, if there is such apportionment, the law applicable to the action for indemnity between the insurers of the tractor cq the trailer, needs to be determined using Article 7 of Rome I (which applies to insurance contracts).

The referring courts were looking I believe for more straightforward advice. Instead I fear the many conditions precedent expressed in the judgment may well leave plenty of room for counsel to further confuse these national courts. This arguably may have a knock-on effect given the repeated insistence by the CJEU that the provisions of Brussels I (Recast) on contract and tort, need to be applied in parallel with those of Rome I and II (not something I necessarily agree with but have come to accept as standing CJEU precedent).

Geert.

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: