Spanish commercial court submits request for preliminary ruling to the CJEU on local territorial jurisdiction for damages action stemming from breach of competition law
Spain Antitrust Alert
The CJEU will have to rule on whether it is EU law or national law that determines which jurisdiction applies domestically to hear damages action. The question is inscribed in the case commonly referred to as the trucks cartel.
Madrid Commercial Court number has submitted to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) a request for a preliminary ruling in relation to the rules for determining the territorial jurisdiction of Spanish courts under Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Regulation 1215/2012). This question was asked in a civil lawsuit for a damages claim against Volvo for its participation in the trucks cartel forming the subject matter of the European Commission Decision delivered on July 19, 2016 in case AT.39824 Trucks.
The court asked, in particular, whether article 7.2 of Regulation 1215/2012, which states that a person domiciled in a Member State may be sued in another member state “in matters relating to tort, delict or quasi-delict, in the courts for the place where the harmful event occurred or may occur”, is a rule of international jurisdiction, or operates as a dual, or combined rule, to determine directly both international and local territorial jurisdiction, without reference to national law.
Until now, the Spanish Supreme Court has held that article 7.2 of Regulation 1215/2012 only determines international jurisdiction and allows international jurisdiction to be attributed to the Spanish courts, although once that jurisdiction has been established, the court with jurisdiction from a domestic standpoint is determined under the provisions in the Spanish Civil Procedure Law (LEC). In the absence of any specific rule determining the territorial jurisdiction in private competition actions, the Supreme Court applies the most closely related rules, which are the rules governing unfair competition cases (article 52.1.12 of the LEC, Spain’s Unfair Competition Law). Under the LEC, the court having jurisdiction is that for the place where the defendant has their establishment, or in the absence of such an establishment, the place of their domicile or residence. Where the defendant does not have a domicile or place of residence in Spain, the defendant is allowed to choose between the place where the event took place, namely the place where the cartel or anticompetitive agreement was formed, and the place where the harm occurs which, in the examined case, is the place where the vehicle was purchased or the leasing contract was signed.
In contrast to this, the CJEU has been interpreting article 7.2 of Regulation 1215/2012 to mean that damages actions for losses caused by anticompetitive practices may be brought in the place where the cartel or an agreement forming part of it that caused the alleged loss was formed, or the court where the victim’s registered office is located.
Moreover, the CJEU has interpreted that article 7.1 of that same regulation, relating to territorial jurisdiction for contractual liability, is a dual rule that seeks to unify the conflict of jurisdiction rules and designate the court having jurisdiction directly, without reference to the domestic rules of the member states. The CJEU’s reply to this request for a preliminary rule will allow it to be determined whether article 7.2 should also be regarded a dual rule that determines both the international jurisdiction of the Spanish courts and the local territorial jurisdiction of a specific court within Spain, which could displace the current case law of the Supreme Court.