Legal Alert – ECJ Judgment on Consumer Protection – Jurisdiction in Cross-Border Disputes (EN)



Subsequently, the consumer brings in an action against the seller under the warranty of the sale contract before the District Court in Saarbrücken. The consumer claimed that under Regulation No 44/2001 that court had jurisdiction to hear such an action. The District Court did not share that view and dismissed the action as inadmissible.

The consumer brought an appeal before the Regional Court in Saarbrücken which, unsure if all conditions for special jurisdiction were satisfied, referred the present case to the ECJ for preliminary ruling.

Questions referred 

The ECJ is basically asked whether the following two circumstances should be regarded as additional conditions for the special jurisdiction to be triggered under the Regulation:

  • the existence of a causal link between the means used to direct the trader’s commercial or professional activity to the Member State in which the consumer is domiciled, namely an internet website, and the conclusion of the contract with that consumer; and/or
  • the contract between the consumer and the trader, being the subject of the dispute, to be concluded at a distance.

Causal link between the means used to direct the trader’s activity and the conclusion of the contract 

The ECJ clearly denies putting the application of the Regulation subject to the existence of such a causal link.

It is first held that the actual wording of the provision in question is sufficiently clear and does not expressly require the existence of such a causal link. The ECJ underlines that the essential condition to which the application of the Regulation is subject is only the commercial or professional activity being directed to the state of the consumer’s domicile.

In the second place, the ECJ finds that the addition of any unwritten conditions on the application of the Regulation would be contrary to the objective pursued by the act, namely protecting the consumers who are generally regarded as the weaker parties to contracts with traders. Since the possible difficulties related to the proof of existence of a causal link between the means used to direct trader’s activity and the conclusion of the contract would inevitably hinder consumers from bringing actions before their national courts, the ECJ negates the existence of such a causal link to be an additional condition for the application of the Regulation.

The ECJ finally states that although the causal link is not a condition, if proved, it may nonetheless be regarded as constituting evidence of ‘directed activity’ in the same way as, for example, the establishment of contact at a distance.