Courage Ltd v Bernard Crehan and Bernard Crehan v Courage Ltd and Others.

JurisdictionEuropean Union
CourtCourt of Justice (European Union)
Writing for the CourtWathelet
ECLIECLI:EU:C:2001:465
Procedure TypeReference for a preliminary ruling
Celex Number61999CJ0453
Docket NumberC-453/99
Date20 September 2001
EUR-Lex - 61999J0453 - EN

Judgment of the Court of 20 September 2001. - Courage Ltd v Bernard Crehan and Bernard Crehan v Courage Ltd and Others. - Reference for a preliminary ruling: Court of Appeal (England and Wales) (Civil Division) - United Kingdom. - Article 85 of the EC Treaty (now Article 81 EC) - Beer tie - Leasing of public houses - Restrictive agreement - Right to damages of a party to the contract. - Case C-453/99.

European Court reports 2001 Page I-06297


Summary
Parties
Grounds
Decision on costs
Operative part

Keywords

1. Competition - Agreements - Contract liable to restrict or distort competition - Right of a party to the contract to rely on the breach of Article 85 of the Treaty (now Article 81 EC) to obtain relief

(EC Treaty, Art. 85 (now Art. 81 EC))

2. Competition - Agreements - Contract liable to restrict or distort competition - Right of a party to the contract to claim damages for loss caused by performance of that contract - Limits

(EC Treaty, Art. 85 (now Art. 81 EC))

Summary

1. A party to a contract liable to restrict or distort competition within the meaning of Article 85 of the Treaty (now Article 81 EC) can rely on the breach of that provision to obtain relief from the other contracting party.

( see para. 36 and operative part 1 )

2. The full effectiveness of Article 85 of the Treaty (now Article 81 EC) and, in particular, the practical effect of the prohibition laid down in Article 85(1) would be put at risk if it were not open to any individual to claim damages for loss caused to him by a contract or by conduct liable to restrict or distort competition. Indeed, the existence of such a right strengthens the working of the Community competition rules and discourages agreements or practices, which are frequently covert, which are liable to restrict or distort competition.

Article 85 of the Treaty therefore precludes a rule of national law under which a party to a contract liable to restrict or distort competition within the meaning of that provision is barred from claiming damages for loss caused by performance of that contract on the sole ground that the claimant is a party to that contract.

However, in the absence of Community rules governing the matter, it is for the domestic legal system of each Member State to designate the courts and tribunals having jurisdiction and to lay down the detailed procedural rules governing actions for safeguarding rights which individuals derive directly from Community law, provided that such rules are not less favourable than those governing similar domestic actions (principle of equivalence) and that they do not render practically impossible or excessively difficult the exercise of rights conferred by Community law (principle of effectiveness).

Under those conditions, Community law does not preclude national law from denying a party who is found to bear significant responsibility for the distortion of competition the right to obtain damages from the other contracting party. Under a principle which is recognised in most of the legal systems of the Member States and which the Court has applied in the past, a litigant should not profit from his own unlawful conduct, where this is proven.

In particular, it is for the national court to ascertain whether the party who claims to have suffered loss through concluding a contract that is liable to restrict or distort competition found himself in a markedly weaker position than the other party, such as seriously to compromise or even eliminate his freedom to negotiate the terms of the contract and his capacity to avoid the loss or reduce its extent, in particular by availing himself in good time of all the legal remedies available to him.

( see paras 26-27, 29, 31, 33, 36 and operative part 2-3 )

Parties

In Case C-453/99,

REFERENCE to the Court under Article 234 EC by the Court of Appeal (England amd Wales) (Civil Division) for a preliminary ruling in the proceedings pending before that court between

Courage Ltd

and

Bernard Crehan

and between

Bernard Crehan

and

Courage Ltd and Others,

on the interpretation of Article 85 of the EC Treaty (now Article 81 EC) and other provisions of Community law,

THE COURT,

composed of: G.C. Rodríguez Iglesias, President, C. Gulmann, M. Wathelet (Rapporteur) and V. Skouris (Presidents of Chambers), D.A.O. Edward, P. Jann, L. Sevón, F. Macken and N. Colneric, J.N. Cunha Rodrigues and C.W.A. Timmermans, Judges,

Advocate General: J. Mischo,

Registrar: L. Hewlett, Administrator,

after considering the written observations submitted on behalf of:

- Courage Ltd, by N. Green QC, instructed by A. Molyneux, Solicitor,

- Bernard Crehan, by D. Vaughan QC and M. Brealey, Barrister, instructed by R. Croft, solicitor,

- the United Kingdom Government, by J.E. Collins, acting as Agent, and K. Parker QC,

- the French Government, by K. Rispal-Bellanger et R. Loosli-Surrans, acting as Agents,

- the Italian Government, by U. Leanza, acting as Agent,

- the Swedish Government, by L. Nordling and I. Simfors, acting as Agents,

- the Commission of the European Communities, by K. Wiedner, acting as Agent, and N. Khan, Barrister,

having regard to the Report for the Hearing,

after hearing the oral observations of Courage Ltd, represented by N. Green and M. Gray, Barrister, of Bernard Crehan, represented by D. Vaughan and M. Brealey, of the United Kingdom Government, represented by J.E. Collins and K. Parker, and of the Commission, represented by K. Wiedner and N. Khan, at the hearing on 6 February 2001,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 22 March 2001,

gives the following

Judgment

Grounds

1 By order of 16 July 1999, received at the Court on 30 November 1999, the Court of Appeal (England and Wales) (Civil Division) referred to the Court for a preliminary ruling under Article 234 EC four questions on the interpretation of Article 85 of the EC Treaty (now Article 81 EC) and other provisions of Community law.

2 The four questions have been raised in proceedings between Courage Ltd (hereinafter Courage) and Bernard Crehan, a publican, concerning unpaid supplies of beer.

Facts of the case and the questions referred for a preliminary ruling

3 In 1990, Courage, a brewery holding a 19% share of the United Kingdom market in sales of beer, and Grand Metropolitan plc (hereinafter Grand Met), a company with a range of catering and hotel interests, agreed to merge their leased public houses (hereinafter pubs). To this end, their respective pubs were transferred to Inntrepreneur Estates Ltd (hereinafter IEL), a company owned in equal shares by Courage and Grand Met. An agreement concluded between IEL and Courage provided that all IEL tenants had to buy their beer exclusively from Courage. Courage was to supply the quantities of beer ordered at the prices specified in the price lists applicable to the pubs leased by IEL.

4 IEL issued a standard form lease agreement to its tenants. While the level of rent could be the subject of negotiation with a prospective tenant, the exclusive purchase obligation (beer tie) and the other clauses of the contract were not negotiable.

5 In 1991, Mr Crehan concluded two 20-year leases with IEL imposing an obligation to purchase from Courage. The rent, subject to a five-year upward-only rent review, was to be the higher of the rent for the immediately preceding period or the best open market rent obtainable for the residue of the term on the other terms of the lease. The tenant had to purchase a fixed minimum quantity of specified beers and IEL agreed to procure the supply of specified beer to the tenant by Courage at the prices shown in the latter's price list.

6 In 1993, Courage, the plaintiff in the main proceedings, brought an action for the recovery from Mr Crehan of the sum of GBP 15 266 for unpaid deliveries of beer. Mr Crehan contested the action on its merits, contending that the beer tie was contrary to Article 85 of the Treaty. He also counter-claimed for damages.

7 Mr Crehan contended that Courage sold its beers to independent tenants of pubs at...

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50 practice notes
  • Opinion of Advocate General Saugmandsgaard Øe delivered on 14 November 2019.
    • European Union
    • Court of Justice (European Union)
    • 14 November 2019
    ...28 Urteile vom 19. Juni 1990, Factortame u. a. (C‑213/89, EU:C:1990:257, Rn. 23), vom 20. September 2001, Courage und Crehan (C‑453/99, EU:C:2001:465, Rn. 26 und Rn. 36, zweiter Gedankenstrich), vom 21. November 2002, Cofidis (C‑473/00, EU:C:2002:705, Rn. 38), und vom 14. März 2013, Aziz (C......
  • Opinion of Advocate General Bobek delivered on 6 May 2021.
    • European Union
    • Court of Justice (European Union)
    • 6 May 2021
    ...22 Urteil vom 6. April 1962, de Geus (13/61, EU:C:1962:11, S. 113). 23 Urteil vom 20. September 2001, Courage und Crehan (C‑453/99, EU:C:2001:465) (im Folgenden: Urteil 24 Urteil vom 30. Januar 1974, BRT und Société belge des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs (127/73, EU:C:1974:6) (im Folge......
  • Opinion of Advocate General Emiliou delivered on 12 May 2022.
    • European Union
    • Court of Justice (European Union)
    • 12 May 2022
    ...Union Law, 8ª ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014, pag. 421. 27 V., in tal senso, sentenza del 20 settembre 2001, Courage e Crehan (C‑453/99, EU:C:2001:465, punto 20 e giurisprudenza ivi 28 V., in tal senso, conclusioni dell’avvocato generale Geelhoed nella causa Commissione/SGL Carb......
  • International Skating Union v European Commission.
    • European Union
    • General Court (European Union)
    • 16 December 2020
    ...en contribuant ainsi au maintien d’une concurrence effective dans l’Union (arrêts du 20 septembre 2001, Courage et Crehan, C‑453/99, EU:C:2001:465, point 27, et du 5 juin 2014, Kone e.a., C‑557/12, EU:C:2014:1317, point 159 En l’espèce, s’il est vrai que le règlement d’arbitrage ne permet p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
41 cases
  • Opinion of Advocate General Saugmandsgaard Øe delivered on 14 November 2019.
    • European Union
    • Court of Justice (European Union)
    • 14 November 2019
    ...28 Urteile vom 19. Juni 1990, Factortame u. a. (C‑213/89, EU:C:1990:257, Rn. 23), vom 20. September 2001, Courage und Crehan (C‑453/99, EU:C:2001:465, Rn. 26 und Rn. 36, zweiter Gedankenstrich), vom 21. November 2002, Cofidis (C‑473/00, EU:C:2002:705, Rn. 38), und vom 14. März 2013, Aziz (C......
  • Opinion of Advocate General Bobek delivered on 6 May 2021.
    • European Union
    • Court of Justice (European Union)
    • 6 May 2021
    ...22 Urteil vom 6. April 1962, de Geus (13/61, EU:C:1962:11, S. 113). 23 Urteil vom 20. September 2001, Courage und Crehan (C‑453/99, EU:C:2001:465) (im Folgenden: Urteil 24 Urteil vom 30. Januar 1974, BRT und Société belge des auteurs, compositeurs et éditeurs (127/73, EU:C:1974:6) (im Folge......
  • Opinion of Advocate General Emiliou delivered on 12 May 2022.
    • European Union
    • Court of Justice (European Union)
    • 12 May 2022
    ...Union Law, 8ª ed., Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2014, pag. 421. 27 V., in tal senso, sentenza del 20 settembre 2001, Courage e Crehan (C‑453/99, EU:C:2001:465, punto 20 e giurisprudenza ivi 28 V., in tal senso, conclusioni dell’avvocato generale Geelhoed nella causa Commissione/SGL Carb......
  • International Skating Union v European Commission.
    • European Union
    • General Court (European Union)
    • 16 December 2020
    ...en contribuant ainsi au maintien d’une concurrence effective dans l’Union (arrêts du 20 septembre 2001, Courage et Crehan, C‑453/99, EU:C:2001:465, point 27, et du 5 juin 2014, Kone e.a., C‑557/12, EU:C:2014:1317, point 159 En l’espèce, s’il est vrai que le règlement d’arbitrage ne permet p......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
5 firm's commentaries
  • Competition Litigation 2019
    • European Union
    • Mondaq European Union
    • 24 September 2018
    ...and the national courts of the EU must safeguard (Case C-127/73, BRT v SABAM, Case C-282/95 P, Guérin Automobiles v Commission, and Case C-453/99, Courage and Crehan ). In addition, the TFEU, and in particular Articles 101 and 102, have primacy over the national laws of the EU Member States......
  • It Is Always Darkest Before The Dawn: Litigating Access To Cartel Leniency Documents In The EU
    • European Union
    • Mondaq European Union
    • 30 September 2013
    ...paragraphs 25 to 27. 13 Idem, at paragraph 28. 14 Idem, at paragraph 29 referring to the Court of Justice's ruling in Courage and Crehan, case C-453/99, judgment of 20 September 2001, paragraph 15 392 U.S. 481 (1968). 16 431 U.S. 720 (1977). 17 Case C-360/09, at paragraph 30. 18 Idem, at pa......
  • Damages Actions For Competition Law Infringements In The EU – New Law Finally Adopted
    • European Union
    • Mondaq European Union
    • 4 March 2015
    ...provisions of the Member States and of the European Union, OJ L 349, 5.12.2014, p. 1-19. 2 Judgment of the Court of 20 September 2001 in Case C-453/99, Courage Ltd v. Bernard Crehan and Bernard Crehan v Courage Ltd and 3 Presentation by Dr. Till Schreiber, CDC Cartel Damage Claims, "Private......
  • EU Antitrust Private Damages Actions
    • European Union
    • Mondaq European Union
    • 10 December 2014
    ...of the competition law provisions of the Member States and of the European Union. Judgment of the Court of 20 September 2001 in Case C-453/99, Courage Ltd v Bernard Crehan and Bernard Crehan v Courage Ltd and Directive, Article 3. Idem, Article 5. Idem, Article 7. Directive, Article 9. Dire......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
2 books & journal articles
  • A European Legal Method? On European Private Law and Scientific Method
    • European Union
    • European Law Journal Nbr. 15-1, January 2009
    • 1 January 2009
    ...Hesselink, ‘The Ideal of Codif‌ication and the Dynamics ofEuropeanisation: The Dutch Experience’, (2006) 12 European Law Journal 279.83 Case C-453/99, Courage v Crehan [2001] ECR I-6297; Joined Cases C-295/04 to C-298/04 Manfredi [2006]ECR I-6619.European Law Journal Volume 15© 2009 The Aut......
  • Towards a European Law of Contracts
    • European Union
    • European Law Journal Nbr. 10-4, July 2004
    • 1 July 2004
    ...Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2004 46924 M. Behar-Touchais and G. Virassamy, Les contrats de la distribution (LGDJ, 1999), 79, 131.25 Case 453/99 Courage [2001] ECR 6297; Europe,nov 2001, 12, note Idot.26 Art 1 of Directive 86/ Directive lies in the fact that parties must now give notice before......
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