Before Ms Bellone was a commercial agent for Yokohama in Italy.  Under Italian law, a person was not entitled to undertaken the activities of a commercial agent unless that person was entered in a register of commercial agents held by the local chamber of commerce.  Ms Bellone was not registered.

The Italian court at first instance held that as Ms Bellone was note entered in the register of commercial agents, her agency agreement with Yokohama was not valid and as a result she was not entitled to the protection afforded by the European Self-employed Agents Directive (“the Directive”).  Ms Bellone appealed.  The Italian higher court referred to the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) the question of whether the Directive was compatible with the Italian law made the validity of agency agreements dependant on the agent being entered onto the appropriate register.

The ECJ held that the Directive was designed to protect commercial agents within the meaning of the Directive.  In other words, a commercial agent is a self-employed intermediary who has continuing authority to negotiate the sale and purchase of goods on behalf of another person or to negotiate and conclude such transactions on behalf of and in the name of that principal.  Providing that a commercial agent fell within that definition, it would be entitled to the protections available under the Directive.

The ECJ also considered that, although member states were entitled under the Directive to require agency agreements to be made in writing, that did not encompass the system of registration in Italy, which went further than a simple requirement for the agency agreement to be in writing.

The ECJ held that the Directive precludes a national rule making the validity of an agency agreement dependent on the agent being entered in a register.  Accordingly, Ms Bellone was deprived of her rights under the Directive by virtue of having failed to be entered into the appropriate register.

Written by Steve Sidkin

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