• In the case of Case 148/78 Publico Ministero v. Ratti [1979] ECR 1629, the European Court of Justice ruled a Directive’s direct effect is questioned after the transposition deadline has passed.
  • This case is about preliminary rulings, vertical direct effect and transposition deadlines.
  • This case established the Ratti test that a Directive has direct effect past the implementation period.

Facts of the Case

  • C enforced Italian legislation compelling D to clearly label and categorize solvents particularly to illustrate which ones had been imported.
  • D followed Directive 77/728 and Directive 73/173 yet D was charged for violating the national law of Italy.
  • D contested this decision on the grounds that Directive 77/728 was not implemented and that he followed the Directives accordingly.

Issues

  • Did the Directive pass the implementation deadline?
  • Were the labelling practices valid?

Held by European Court of Justice

  • C’s claim dismissed – Italian legislation is legally binding on D altered by Directive 77/728.

Advocate General Reischl

Implementation deadlines

  • “A member state which has not adopted the implementing measures required by the Directive in the prescribed periods may not rely, as against individuals, on its own failure to perform the obligations which the Directive entails”.
  • The Directive was not directly effective but C could claim the transposition deadline of the other Directive had expired.
  • “Member-States may not prohibit, restrict or impede on the grounds of classification, packaging or labelling the placing on the market of dangerous preparations which satisfy the requirements of the directive, although it lays down a general duty, it has no independent value, being no more than the necessary complement of the substantive provisions contained in the aforesaid Articles and designed to ensure the free movement of the products in question.”
  • “After the expiration of the period fixed for the implementation of a directive a member-State may not apply its internal law—even if it is provided with penal sanctions—which has not yet been adapted in compliance with the directive, to a person who has complied with the requirements of the directive.”

Direct effect

  • The court referred to Case 41/74 Van Dunyn [1974] ECR 1337 where it was held that Directives can certainly have direct effect.
  • The court also referred to Case 106/77 Amministrazione delle Finanze v Simmenthal SpA [1978] ECR 629 because this was also a preliminary ruling where the European Court of Justice had to strike a balance between EU law and national law.
  • C successfully labelled and packaged the solvents after being notified as per the first Directive. Italian law did not bring the second Directive into effect however these labels did not comply with the law.