Centrosteel Srl (Centrosteel) acted as agent in Italy for the Austrian company Adipol GmbH (Adipol). On termination of the agency agreement, Centrosteel sought to recover payment of unpaid commission. Adipol refused to pay on the grounds that the agreement was void because Centrosteel had not been entered onto the register of commercial agents as required under Italian law.
The European Court of Justice had already made a ruling on this point in the case of Bellone v Yokohama SpA 1998. In that case the ECJ held that a national rule which makes the validity of an agency contract conditional upon the commercial agent being entered on the register is contrary to the Self Employed Agents Directive .
The Italian court took the view that the Bellone case should not apply to the facts of this case since directives do not have direct effect on proceedings between individuals
The Italian court referred the following questions to the ECJ:
- Does the Italian law which require that entry in a register is compulsory for any person acting as an agent and an agency contract concluded by a person not entered on that register void, constitute a restriction of the freedom of establishment?
- Do the provisions of the Treaty on freedom of establishment preclude national legislation which makes the validity of an agency contract subject to entry of the commercial agent in an appropriate register?
- Do the provisions on freedom to provide services contained in the Treaty preclude national legislation which makes the validity of an agency contract subject to the requirement of entry of the commercial agent in the appropriate register?
The European Court of Justice decided that the courts of Member States are under a obligation to interpret their national laws in such a way as to achieve the result pursued by the directives. That obligation also applies to proceedings between individuals.
The European Court of Justice held that in answer to the questions referred by the English court, the Directive precludes all national legislation which makes the validity of an agency contract conditional on the commercial agent being entered on a register.
This case summary was prepared by Rebecca Ekundayo, Trainee Solicitor at Fox Williams LLP
Written by Agentlaw Team