CJEU - C-221/15 / Judgment Etablissements Fr. Colruyt

Key facts of the case:

Reference for a preliminary ruling — Directive 2011/64/EU — Article 15(1) — Free determination, by the manufacturers and importers, of the maximum retail selling prices of manufactured tobacco products — National regulation prohibiting the sale of such products by retailers at prices lower than those indicated on the revenue stamp — Free movement of goods — Article 34 TFEU — Selling arrangements — Article 101 TFEU, read in conjunction with Article 4(3) TEU

Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:

On those grounds, the Court (Sixth Chamber) hereby rules:

  1. Article 15(1) of Directive 2011/64/EU of 21 June 2011 on the structure and rates of excise duty applied to manufactured tobacco must be interpreted as not precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which prohibits retailers from selling tobacco products at a unit price lower than the price indicated by the manufacturer or importer on the revenue stamp affixed to those products, in so far as that price has been freely determined by the manufacturer or importer.
  2. Article 34 TFEU must be interpreted as not precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which prohibits retailers from selling tobacco products at a unit price lower than the price indicated by the manufacturer or importer on the revenue stamp affixed to those products, in so far as that price has been freely determined by the importer.
  3. Article 101 TFEU, read in conjunction with Article 4(3) TEU, must be interpreted as not precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which prohibits retailers from selling tobacco products at a unit price lower than the price indicated by the manufacturer or importer on the revenue stamp affixed to those products.
Paragraphs referring to EU Charter: 
  1. By its first question the referring court asks, in essence, whether Article 15(1) of Directive 2011/64, read in conjunction with Articles 20 and 21 of the Charter, must be interpreted as precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which prohibits retailers from selling tobacco products at a unit price lower than the price indicated by the manufacturer or importer on the revenue stamp affixed to those products.
  1. That interpretation is not called in question by Colruyt’s argument, according to which not allowing retailers the freedom, under Article 15(1), to set the sales price of tobacco products to the consumer, constitutes unjustified discrimination, contrary to Articles 20 and 21 of the Charter, as between retailers who are also importers and those which are not. Those provisions of the Charter cannot, in any event, result in the scope of Directive 2011/64 being extended to the setting of the minimum price charged by retailers, which is not, as a rule, concerned by the application of the excise duty on tobacco products.