• In the case of Lidl GmbH (30 June 2016), the marketing standards of fresh pre-packaged poultry were explored, and that the principle of non-discrimination was not offended by such standards.

Facts of Case C-134/15 Lidl GmbH (30 June 2016)

  • Some Lidl branches did not have the prices of the poultry directly on the packaging, however had labels for corresponding prices on the shelves
  • The German government believed this to be an infringement of Article 5(4)(b) of Regulation (EC) Number 543/2008 which required labelling on the packaging for poultry only
  • Lidl, unhappy with this, sought declaration that the relevant Article was invalid under European law

Issues in Case C-134/15 Lidl GmbH (30 June 2016)

  • Did the Article offend freedom to conduct a business, contrary to Article 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights?
  • Was there discrimination present? Did Article 5(4)(b) infringe Article 40(2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights, by discriminating between poultry (in present case) and other meats?

Held by the European Court of Justice

  • Article 5(4)(b) is valid under EU law – it was allowed to limit the freedom to conduct a business; and it was not discriminatory.

Court findings

Freedom to conduct business:

  • “The freedom to conduct a business includes, inter alia, the right for any business to be able to freely use, within the limits of its liability for its own acts, the economic, technical and financial resources available to it” [27]

As for the present case, it was okay for Article 5(4)(b) to apply an obligation to ensure labelling on the packaging as it can reflect significant cost

  • “Article 5(4)(b) of Regulation No 543/2008 is liable to limit the exercise of that freedom to conduct a business, since such an obligation constrains its addressee in a manner which restricts the free use of the resources at his disposal because it obliges him to take measures which may represent a significant cost for him and have a considerable impact on the organisation of his activities ” [29]

Thus, limitations would be allowed as long as:

  • “limitations may be imposed on the exercise of that freedom, as long as, in accordance with Article 52(1) of the Charter, first, the limitations are provided for by law and respect the essence of that freedom and, second, in compliance with the principle of proportionality, they are necessary and genuinely meet objectives of general interest recognised by the European Union or the need to protect the rights and freedoms of others” [31]

Here, the obligation was proportionate:

  • “the interference with the applicant in the main proceedings’ freedom to conduct a business is, in the present case, proportionate to the objectives pursued” [40]

On the question of non-discrimination:

  • “provision prohibits any discrimination between producers or consumers within the European Union.” [44]

The reviewal of non-discrimination in case law is limited as

  • “EU legislature enjoys a wide discretion in matters concerning agriculture. Consequently, judicial review must be limited to verifying that the measure in question is not vitiated by any manifest error or misuse of powers and that the authority concerned has not manifestly exceeded the limits of its discretion” [47]

Here, the comparison of one product to another cannot prove discrimination

  • “a comparison of the technical rules and procedures adopted in order to regulate the various sectors of the market cannot constitute a valid basis for the purpose of proving the complaint of discrimination between dissimilar products which are subject to different rules” [49]