CJEU - C-134/15 / Judgment Lidl GmbH & Co KG v Freistaat Sachsen

Key facts of the case:

Reference for a preliminary ruling — Regulation (EC) No 543/2008 — Agriculture — Common organisation of the markets — Marketing standards — Fresh pre-packaged poultrymeat — Obligation to indicate the total price and the price per weight unit on the pre-packaging or on a label attached thereto — Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Article 16 — Freedom to conduct a business — Proportionality — Second subparagraph of Article 40(2) TFEU — Non-discrimination

Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:

...the Court (Second Chamber) hereby rules:

  1. Consideration of the first question referred has not disclosed any factor of such a kind as to affect the validity of Article 5(4)(b) of Commission Regulation (EC) No 543/2008 of 16 June 2008 laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 as regards the marketing standards for poultry meat, in the light of the freedom to conduct a business, as provided by Article 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
  2. Consideration of the second question referred has not disclosed any factor of such a kind as to affect the validity of Article 5(4)(b) of Regulation No 543/2008 in the light of the principle of non-discrimination referred to in the second subparagraph of Article 40(2) TFEU. [Signatures]
Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 
  1. At the outset, it should be noted that although the referring court and the parties to the main proceedings take the view that the validity of the labelling obligation must be examined in the light of Article 15(1) and Article 16 of the Charter on (i) the freedom to choose an occupation and the right to engage in work and (ii) the freedom to conduct a business, it is, however, clear that the labelling obligation does not limit the option available to persons ‘to pursue a freely chosen … occupation’ within the meaning of Article 15 of the Charter. In contrast, it is capable of restricting the freedom to conduct a business recognised in Article 16 of the Charter.
  1. The Court has also held that the protection afforded by Article 16 of the Charter covers the freedom to exercise an economic or commercial activity, freedom of contract and free competition, as is apparent from the explanations relating to that article, which, in accordance with the third subparagraph of Article 6(1) TEU and Article 52(7) of the Charter, have to be taken into consideration for the interpretation of the Charter (judgments of 22 January 2013 in Sky Österreich, C‑283/11, EU:C:2013:28, paragraph 42, and 17 October 2013 in Schaible, C‑101/12, EU:C:2013:661, paragraph 25).
  2. The labelling obligation laid down in 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 (see, to that effect, judgment of 27 March 2014 in UPC Telekabel Wien, C‑314/12, EU:C:2014:192, paragraph 50).
  1. Nevertheless, in accordance with the Court’s case-law, the freedom to conduct a business is not absolute, but must be viewed in relation to its social function (see, inter alia, judgments of 6 September 2012 in Deutsches Weintor, C‑544/10, EU:C:2012:526, paragraph 54, and 22 January 2013 in Sky Österreich, C‑283/11, EU:C:2013:28, paragraph 45 and the case-law cited). 31 Consequently, 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. 34 Furthermore, the Court has already held that the freedom to conduct a business may be subject to a broad range of interventions on the part of public authorities which may limit the exercise of economic activity in the public interest (judgment of 22 January 2013 in Sky Österreich, C‑283/11, EU:C:2013:28, paragraph 46).