Scotch Whisky Association And Others v Lord Advocate, Advocate General for Scotland: ECJ 23 Dec 2015

ECJ (Judgment) Reference for a preliminary ruling – Common organisation of the markets in agricultural products – Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 – Free movement of goods – Article 34 TFEU – Quantitative restrictions – Measures having equivalent effect – Minimum price of alcoholic drinks calculated according to the alcoholic strength of the product – Justification – Article 36 TFEU – Protection of human life and health – Assessment by the national court
‘I consider that the existence of a CMO covering the wine sector does not prevent the national authorities from taking action in the exercise of their competence in order to adopt measures to protect health and, in particular, to combat alcohol abuse. However, where the national measure constitutes a breach of the principle of the free formation of selling prices that constitutes a component of the single CMO Regulation, the principle of proportionality requires that the national measure must actually meet the objective of the protection of human health and must not go beyond what is necessary in order to attain that objective.
As the commission suggests, I consider that the examination of the proportionality of the measure must be undertaken in the context of the analysis that must be carried out by reference to article 36 TFEU.
Consequently, I propose that the answer to the first question should be that the single CMO Regulation must be interpreted as meaning that it does not preclude national rules, such as those at issue, which prescribe a minimum retail price for wines according to the quantity of alcohol in the product sold, provided that those rules are justified by the objectives of the protection of human health, and in particular the objective of combating alcohol abuse, and do not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve that objective.’
‘A barrier to the free movement of goods may be justified on one of the public interest grounds set out in article 36 TFEU or in order to meet overriding requirements. In either case, the restrictions imposed by the member states must none the less satisfy the conditions laid down in the court’s case law as regards their proportionality. In that regard, in order for national rules to comply with the principle of proportionality, it is necessary to ascertain not only whether the means which they implement are appropriate to ensure attainment of the objective pursued, but also that those means do not go beyond what is necessary to attain that objective: Berlington Hungary Tanacsado es Szolgaltato kft v Magyar Allam (Case C-98/14) [2015] 3 CMLR 45, para 64.
Although the words generally used by the court seem most frequently to result in only two different stages of the control of proportionality being distinguished, the intellectual exercise followed in order to determine whether a national measure is proportionate is generally broken down into three successive stages.
The first stage, corresponding to the test of suitability or appropriateness, consists in ascertaining that the act adopted is suitable for attaining the aim sought.
The second stage, relating to the test of necessity, sometimes also known as the ‘minimum interference test’, entails a comparison between the national measure at issue and the alternative solutions that would allow the same objective as that pursued by the national measure to be attained but would impose fewer restrictions on trade.
The third stage, corresponding to the test of proportionality in the strict sense, assumes the balancing of the interests involved. More precisely, it consists in comparing the extent of the interference which the national measure causes to the freedom under consideration and the contribution which that measure could secure for the protection of the objective pursued.’

R. Silva de Lapuerta, P
ECLI:EU:C:2015:845, [2015] EUECJ C-333/14, [2016] 1 WLR 2283, [2015] WLR(D) 544
Bailii, WLRD
Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013, TFEU 34
See AlsoScotch Whisky Association and Others v The Lord Advocate and Another SCS 30-Apr-2014
(Extra Division, Inner House, Court of Session) Reclaiming motion is brought against the Lord Ordinary’s decision rejecting the petitioners’ challenge to the provisions of the 2012 Act. Reference to ECJ . .
See AlsoThe Scotch Whisky Association and Others, Re Judicial Review SCS 26-Sep-2012
Outer House – application by Alcohol Focus Scotland for permission to intervene in the public interest in a judicial review application by The Scotch Whisky Association and two European bodies which represent producers of spirit drinks and the wine . .
See AlsoThe Scotch Whisky Association and Others, Re Judicial Review SCS 3-May-2013
(Outer House, Court of Session) The petitioners challenged the legality of an enactment of the Scottish Parliament – the Act. They also challenged the legality of the Scottish Ministers’ decision that they would make an Order setting the minimum . .
See AlsoScotch Whisky Association and Others for Judicial Review SCS 11-Jul-2014
Extra Division, Inner House – Further application for leave to intervene. . .
CitedCommission v Italy (Free Movement Of Goods) ECJ 10-Feb-2009
ecJ Failure of a Member State to fulfil obligations Article 28 EC Concept of ‘measures having equivalent effect to quantitative restrictions on imports’ Prohibition on mopeds, motorcycles, motor tricycles and . .

Cited by:
At ECJThe Scotch Whisky Association and Others v The Lord Advocate and Another SCS 21-Oct-2016
The Association sought to challenge the legality of the 2012 Act and orders made under it. The Government’s contended that the Act would bring health benefits of one sort or another to at least part of the population.
Held: In a reclaiming . .
At ECJScotch Whisky Association and Others v The Lord Advocate and Another SC 15-Nov-2017
The Association challenged the imposition of minimum pricing systems for alcohol, saying that it was in breach of European law. After a reference to the ECJ, the Court now considered its legality.
Held: The Association’s appeal failed. Minimum . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Commercial, Health

Updated: 10 November 2021; Ref: scu.565749