CJEU Case T-402/20 / Judgment

Zippo Manufacturing and Others v Commission
Deciding body type
Court of Justice of the European Union
Decision date
ECLI (European case law identifier)
  • CJEU Case T-402/20 / Judgment

    Key facts of the case: 

    Commercial policy – Regulation (EU) 2020/502 – Measures adopted by the United States on imports of certain derivative aluminium and steel products – European Union decision to suspend equivalent trade concessions and other obligations – Additional customs duties on imports of products originating in the United States – Action for annulment – Standing to bring proceedings – Admissibility – Principle of good administration – Right to be heard

    Outcome of the case: 

    On those grounds, THE GENERAL COURT (Third Chamber) hereby:

    1.      Annuls Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/502 of 6 April 2020 on certain commercial policy measures concerning certain products originating in the United States of America in so far as it concerns products falling within CN code 9613 80 00;

    2.      Orders the European Commission to pay the costs.

  • Paragraphs referring to EU Charter

    20) The conditions of admissibility laid down in that provision must be interpreted in the light of the fundamental right to effective judicial protection, as enshrined in Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’), but such an interpretation cannot have the effect of setting aside those conditions, which are expressly laid down in the TFEU.


    51) The applicants submit that the information gathering process conducted by the Commission, referred to in recital 10 of the contested regulation, did not comply with the principle of good administration. First of all, that process was not transparent, given that it was conducted via a section of the DG Trade website which was nearly invisible and which was difficult to access. Next, while the Commission was not required to publish the information about that process in the Official Journal of the European Union, such a notice would have complied with the principle of good administration. Lastly, that process did not allow the applicants to be heard before the contested regulation was adopted and, in view of the severity of the measures considered with regard to their interests, their right to be heard was not respected, in breach of Article 41(2) of the Charter.


    60) It should also be borne in mind that the Commission is required, during an administrative procedure in the matter of defence against commercial policy measures taken by non-EU countries, to respect the fundamental rights of the European Union, which include the right to good administration enshrined in Article 41 of the Charter. According to the case-law relating to the principle of good administration, where the EU institutions have a discretion, respect for the safeguards established by the EU legal order in administrative procedures is of even more fundamental importance (see, to that effect, judgments of 24 May 2012, JBF RAK v Council, T‑555/10, not published, EU:T:2012:262, paragraph 112 and the case-law cited; of 25 January 2017, Rusal Armenal v Council, T‑512/09 RENV, EU:T:2017:26, paragraph 189 and the case-law cited; and of 12 March 2020, Eurofer v Commission, T‑835/17, EU:T:2020:96, paragraph 143).

    61) Furthermore, it should be borne in mind that Article 41(2)(a) of the Charter provides that the right to good administration includes the right of every person to be heard before any individual measure which would affect him or her adversely is taken (judgment of 5 November 2014, Mukarubega, C‑166/13, EU:C:2014:2336, paragraph 43).


    73) The case-law of the Court of Justice, referred to in paragraph 63 above, has adopted a broad interpretation of the right to be heard as being guaranteed to every person in any procedure which is liable to culminate in a measure adversely affecting him or her. Therefore, it cannot be ruled out that undertakings exporting the products concerned by the rebalancing measures provided for by a regulation adopted on the basis of Article 4(1) of Regulation No 654/2014, in particular in the form of additional customs duties, may rely on the right to be heard, as guaranteed by Article 41(2)(a) of the Charter, in the context of the procedure for adopting those measures.

    74) In its defence and at the hearing, the Commission argued that the procedure for adopting an implementing act, on the basis of Article 4(1) of Regulation No 654/2014, does not provide for the identification of producers or exporters whose products are likely to be subject to rebalancing measures. However, under Article 41(2)(a) of the Charter and having regard to the case-law referred to in paragraphs 62 and 63 above, where the conduct of the procedure for the adoption of that act leads the Commission to identify a natural or legal person whose interests are likely to be adversely affected by the measures provided for by that same act, it should be considered that that person must be able to submit information relating to his or her personal circumstances as will argue in favour of the adoption or non-adoption of the act in question, or in favour of its having a specific content.


    78) However, the exercise of the right to be heard may be subject to limitations under Article 52(1) of the Charter, according to which:

    ‘Any limitation on the exercise of the rights and freedoms recognised by this Charter must be provided for by law and respect the essence of those rights and freedoms. Subject to the principle of proportionality, limitations may be made only if 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.’