By Pieter van Cleynenbreugel
Online platforms have become major economic players over the past decade. It is not surprising, therefore, that their business practices have captured the European Union’s attention. This attention resulted in a 2018 proposal for a Regulation on transparency and equity in relationships with online platforms, a political agreement on which has been reached between the Commission, Council and European Parliament on 13 February 2019 (see for the press release, http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-19-1168_en.htm). It is very likely that this Regulation will be adopted before the European Parliament elections of this year. Even though it may seem premature to comment on the Regulation’s content in an in-depth way (the final negotiations and fine-tuning are still in progress at this time), this contribution would like to flag an important gap that has seemingly withstood scrutiny so far. That gap concerns the fact that the proposed Regulation apparently – seemingly unintentionally – would not apply to ‘underlying service-attached intermediation activities’ offered by platforms such as Uber and Deliveroo. This is most surprising, as the Commission clearly wants them to fall within the scope of that Regulation (according to its press release mentioned above, the new instrument is to apply to ‘the entire online platform economy’ if and when adopted). This contribution uncovers that gap and proposes a way to close it. Continue reading
By Bernd Justin Jütte
One week after the Court of Justice (CJEU) handed down its Judgment in GS Media (see for a comment here), it has ruled on another important copyright case. In Mc Fadden v Sony Music the Court followed the Opinion of AG Szpunar (see for comment on this blog here) to a large extent while disagreeing on two crucial points. It decided that the operator of an open wireless network provides an ‘information society service’ (ISS) within the meaning of Article 14 E-Commerce Directive if he provides access to the network as part of his economic activities. This means he can avail himself of the liability exemption laid down in that provision. However, the operator of a wireless network can be required to protect the network with a password in order to deter users from infringing the rights of copyright holders. The Court further decided that the right holder can claim from network operators the costs related to an injunction (e.g. to prevent future infringements), but not the costs related to claims for primary infringements of copyrights by the users of the Wi-Fi network. Continue reading
By Bernd Justin Jütte
In a much awaited decision, the CJEU has ruled that linking to freely-available copyrighted content that has been uploaded without the consent of the right holder is, in principle, legal. However, it qualified that such a reference could infringe the right to communication to the public under Article 3(1) of the Information Society Directive (Directive 2001/29/EC) if certain elements were present. After AG Wathelet had provided his Opinion in early April (see post on this Blog here), the CJEU rendered its Judgement on 8 September 2016. Continue reading
By Johan Vannerom
In the field of EU B-2-C Commercial Practices, Belgium is a hard learner. Although the Belgian trade practices legislation has already been under investigation several times and has even been declared incompatible with the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive (Directive 2005/29/EC) by the EU Court of Justice (e.g. Pelckmans Turnhout NV against Walter Van Gastel Balen NV a.o.; WAMO BVBA against JBC NV and Modemakers Fashion NV; VTB-VAB against Total Belgium, and Galatea against Sanoma Magazines), the Belgian legislator nonetheless ‘maintained’ certain strict rules. For instance, the Belgian Law of 6 April 2010 on commercial practices, consumer information and consumer protection (‘LPMC’) still excludes certain professions from its scope of application and includes strict rules on discount prices and on the organization of travelling trading and fairground activities.
Not surprisingly, the European Commission decided to challenge the aforementioned rules and bring an action for failure to fulfil obligations under Article 258 TFEU against Belgium. In this short contribution, I will discuss the judgment of the EU Court of Justice (‘CJEU’) following the aforementioned action. This judgment does not only have an impact on current Belgian trade practices legislation – the LPMC was abolished and replaced by Book VI of the (recently adopted) Belgian Code of Economic Law –, but also contains lessons for other EU Member States.
Here’s another Court judgment on the infamous (or clarifying, depending on your perspective) Court ruling in Sturgeon. Last November, we reported on the ruling in the joined cases Nelson (C-581/10) and TUI Travel (C-629/10), in which the Court confirmed the judgment in Sturgeon. The Court held that Airline Passengers have the right to the fixed monetary compensation under Article 7(1) of Regulation 261/2004 (the Regulation) in case of a delay of three hours or more. This time, it’s about the question at which stage of the carriage the delay must occur. For the purpose of entitlement to compensation under Article 7(1), is the length of the delay in reaching the final destination alone determinant? Or does entitlement to compensation for such a delay additionally requires that the conditions set out in Article 6(1) of the regulation be met, that is to say, that the departure of the flight in question was already delayed beyond the limits set out in Article 6(1)? If not, for the purpose of determining whether there was a delay, in the case of a flight consisting of several stages, should reference be made to the individual stages or to the distance to the final destination?
Directive 94/19/EC on deposit-guarantee schemes, which has also been transposed into EEA law, obliges EU and EEA EFTA states to create deposit-guarantee schemes. Deposit-guarantee schemes reimburse a limited amount of deposits to depositors where their bank has failed. The purpose is to protect a part of depositors’ wealth from bank failures, and thus to prevent depositors from making panic withdrawals from their bank with potentially dire economic consequences. In the present case, the EFTA Court was confronted with an action by the EFTA Surveillance Authority against Iceland. The Authority claimed that Iceland had violated the transposed Directive and thus EEA law in the aftermath of its major economic crisis and collapse of the banking sector in 2008, by failing to ensure that British and Dutch depositors using the famous ‘Icesave’ accounts offered by Icelandic banks received the minimum amount of compensation set out in Article 7(1) of the Directive. In a rather surprising decision handed down on Monday this week, the Court interpreted the Directive very narrowly, effectively finding that Iceland had not failed to comply with its obligations under EEA law. Continue reading
As part of recent Spanish measures to reduce public expenses and increase public income, the Spanish Ley 10/2012 substantially raises judicial fees (a “tasa judicial” is a fee charged when citizens access certain judicial services), a move that has generated a great deal of protests by judges, lawyers and citizens alike. Under the new system, a simple European order for payment procedure will cost 100 euro, and an appeal before the labour courts will now cost between 500 and 10,500 euro, depending on the amount at stake.
The Government of Catalonia has announced that it will challenge the constitutionality of the Ley, on the basis that it is contrary to Article 24 of the Spanish Constitution, which guarantees effective judicial protection. However, in the absence of a system to preventively suspend the application of national laws during unconstitutionality procedures, judicial fees must be paid at the higher rate until the Constitutional Court decides the issue. And here is where European Law may come to the rescue. If the new judicial fees could be considered so high as to clash with the principles of effectiveness and equivalence, EU law would become a useful tool to declare the fees inapplicable. Continue reading
The Airlines lost, end of story. I could stop there, refer you to our earlier post and conclude by expressing the hope that airlines will acknowledge defeat and in the future pay compensation when compensation is due under Regulation 261/2004. However, being the academic minded blogger, I’ll go into more detail on the joined cases Nelson (C-581/10) and TUI Travel (C-629/10) below.
In its Judgment of 18 October 2012 in case C-428/11 Purely Creative and Others v Office of Fair Trading, the CJEU was confronted with the interpretation of consumer protection rules in the field of aggressive commercial practices in a distant sales scenario. The judgment places a severe restriction on commercial practices that include the award of ‘prizes’ to targeted consumers, by determing that “the prohibition on making the consumer bear any cost whatsoever is absolute, whether it be the cost of a stamp or of a simple telephone conversation”. In my opinion, the CJEU has overshot the mark of consumer protection.
As a firm blow to airlines trying to dodge the Sturgeon decision, AG Bot’s opinion in the joined cases C-581/10 and C-629/10 has already been called a ‘Luxembourgian punch on the nose’ and ‘a kick in the Bot’. In his opinion, AG Bot essentially advises the Court to confirm its earlier Sturgeon decision (Cases C-402/07 and C-432/07). The cases concern the interpretation of Articles 5, 6 and 7 of Regulation 261/2004 on air passengers compensation. Although frequently named the ‘Denied-boarding’ Regulation, the Court ruled in Sturgeon that passengers whose flights are delayed may also rely on the right to compensation laid down in Article 7 where they suffer, on account of such flights, a loss of time equal to or in excess of three hours (paragraph 61 of Sturgeon). Not surprisingly, airlines have since argued that the ruling in Sturgeon is contrary to the principles of legal certainty and proportionality, and, moreover, that it is inconsistent with both the 2006 IATA ruling and the Montreal Convention for the Unification of Certain Rules for International Carriage by Air (ratified by the EC).
To be fair, the wording of the Regulation does not directly provide for the compensation right to passengers whose flights are delayed. In that sense, as indeed the airlines argue, the Court has taken a bold step in Sturgeon and has maybe, in interpreting the Regulation beyond its literal wording, overstepped its powers. AG Bot, however, doesn’t see any reason for the Court to deviate from its approach in Sturgeon and states that nothing new which might call into question the interpretation that the Court gave in Sturgeon has been presented (point 39). The AG notes that the disputes in these cases show that air carriers refuse to apply that judgment and to compensate passengers finding themselves in such situations (i.e. situations of delay instead of cancellation or denied-boarding). The AG takes the view that Articles 5, 6 and 7 of the Regulation (as interpreted in Sturgeon) are compatible with the IATA ruling, with the Montreal Convention, with the principle of proportionality and with the principle of legal certainty (point 29-49 and 67).
Meanwhile, the Attorney General (AG) at the Dutch Hoge Raad (Supreme Court of the Netherlands) has delivered his opinion (in Dutch) in several cases pending before the Supreme Court concerning compensation under Art. 7 for delayed flights. The opinion was delivered exactly four days before AG Bot’s opinion but follows the same pattern. The AG rejected all of the airlines’ arguments against the Sturgeon ruling..