In the case of Case-76/90 Sager v Dennemeyer [1991] ECR 4221, it was established that where the requirement of a professional licence for free movement of services is required, the Member State may be prohibited from asking such under Article 51 TFEU if it is disproportionate in nature to the objective of consumer protection.

Facts of Case-76/90 Sager v Dennemeyer [1991] ECR 4221

  • Dennemeyer, a UK specialist in patent renewal services, advises holders of German patents when fees for renewing patents become due whilst paying them on their behalf upon returning to Dennemeyer the reminder sent to them and asking for such sums to be paid
  • Advice is not provided by Dennemeyer to clients in respect of the choice made, nor for the consequences of payment or non-payment of such fees; it is the client’s responsibility to notify Dennemeyer of any alterations to the patent which affect the fee
  • Sager, a patent agent, sued the service on basis that such services should only be provided by German law authorised licensed patent agents
  • The German court referred the preliminary question to the CJEU as to whether Article 59 of the EEC Treaty (now Article 51 TFEU – freedom of movement to provide services) requires the obtaining of a professional licence

Issues in Case-76/90 Sager v Dennemeyer [1991] ECR 4221

  • Was the freedom of movement to provide services restricted by the requirement to obtain a licence in the Member State concerned with the patent renewal services?

Held by the European Court of Justice

No, there was no requirement. Such was prohibited by Article 51 TFEU, and was found to be disproportionate with the objective to protect consumers.

Findings of the Court

Article 59 “requires not only the elimination of all discrimination against a person providing services on the ground of his nationality but also the abolition of any restriction … when it is liable to prohibit or otherwise impede the activities of a provider of services established in another Member State where he lawfully provides similar services.” [12]

  • Especially where it shall “deprive of all practical effectiveness the provisions of the Treaty whose object is, precisely, to guarantee the freedom to provide services.” [13]

As to requirements necessary, “the freedom to provide services may be limited only by rules which are justified by imperative reasons relating to the public interest and which apply to all persons or undertakings pursuing an activity in the State of destination, in so far as that interest is not protected by the rules to which the person providing the services is subject in the Member State in which he is established.” [15]

In the present case, the measure proposed was disproportionate as it went beyond was necessary to protect the recipients of the services [17]