Key facts of the case:
- By the present request for a preliminary ruling, the Okresný súd Svidník (District Court, Svidník) (Slovakia) is seeking an interpretation of a number of provisions of Directive 93/13/EEC, (2) in conjunction with Articles 38 and 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, (3) in order to determine whether consumer protection associations must, in the pursuit of a high level of consumer protection enshrined in EU law, enjoy a right to intervene in proceedings for enforcement of an arbitral award.
- In addition to the substantive issue which has been formally referred to the Court, the question also arises whether the Court still has jurisdiction to give a ruling. In the light of the developments in the national proceedings relating to the main action, resulting from the withdrawal of the applicant – and, at the same time, the likely settlement of the dispute which gave rise to the request for a preliminary ruling – it should first be determined whether there is still any need for the Court to give a ruling, given that the referring court has thus far not formally withdrawn that request.
- Despite the doubts which may legitimately be held over whether there is still any need to give a ruling and the scarcity of the information provided by the referring court, I take the view that the spirit of cooperation which must drive the preliminary ruling procedure should ultimately lead the Court not to decline jurisdiction. On the substance, I consider that, as EU law stands at present, the effectiveness of the protection conferred on consumers is undermined neither by national legislation which does not permit a consumer rights association to intervene in proceedings for enforcement of an arbitral award nor by national legislation which allows it to do so.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
In the light of all the above considerations, I propose that the Court answer the questions asked by the Okresný súd Svidník as follows:
The protection conferred on consumers by Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts, in particular Articles 6(1), 7(1) and 8 thereof, in conjunction with Articles 38 and 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, is to be interpreted, in circumstances like those in the main proceedings, as not preluding national legislation which does not allow a consumer protection association to intervene in proceedings for enforcement of an arbitral award. Nor does such legislation preclude the court from granting such an association leave to intervene in proceedings for enforcement of an arbitral award.