Consumer protection and the Brussels Regulation

The European Court of Justice has considered whether the Brussels Regulation applies to a contract where the consumer and the other party to the contract were domiciled in the same member state. 

The case concerned two individuals, domiciled in Bludesch, Austria, who brought a claim in relation to a holiday booking against lastminute.com (domiciled in Munich, Germany) and TUI (domiciled in Vienna, Austria).  The holiday was booked on lastminute.com’s website which stated that the trip would be operated by TUI.  The local court held that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the claim against TUI because the dispute was domestic and the Brussels Regulation did not apply.  It held it did have jurisdiction against lastminute.com because the claimants were consumers and lastminute.com directed its commercial activities to Austria. 

The ECJ was asked to determine whether the situation was purely domestic, in which case the Brussels Regulation would not apply.  In a situation where a supplier (registered in a different member state) directed commercial activities to the member state of the consumer’s domicile and marketed the services of another party (here, TUI), would Article 16(1) of the Brussels Regulation apply to the latter party even though it was domiciled in the same member state as the consumer? 

The ECJ held that:

  • Article 16(1) of the Brussels Regulation applied
  • The transaction between the individuals and TUI was not purely domestic.  It was inextricably linked to the transaction between the individuals and lastminute.com, and both transactions were the result of a single booking
  • Account must be taken of the purpose of the Brussels Regulation, as set out in the preamble, concerning the protection of the consumer as the “weaker party” to the contract and the aim to “minimise the possibility of concurrent proceedings…to ensure that irreconcilable judgments will not be given in two Member States.”

A link to the judgment is available here.

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