Case C-188/89 Foster v British Gas [1990] ECR I-3313

Key point

  • This case defined bodies that ’emanations of the state’, whose acts can be challenged in national court for compatibility with EU directives


  • British Gas is a nationalised public utility
  • Claimants sought to challenge British Gas policy which requires women to retire at 60 but men at 65 against the Equal Treatment Directive
  • The Equal Treatment Directive had not been implemented in national law although its implementation period has expired
  • Preliminary reference was made on whether directives can be relied upon in national court against a state owned enterprise like British Gas


  • British Gas is is an emanation of the state
  • Thus the Equal Treatment Directive can be relied upon against it in national court


  • Definition of ‘emanation of the state’:
    • a body, whatever its legal form,
    • which has been made responsible, pursuant to a measure adopted by the state, for providing a public service under the control of the state, and
    • has for that purpose special powers beyond those which result from the normal rules applicable in relation between individuals
Direct and Indirect Effect Cases
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