Case C-194/94 CIA Security International SA v Signalson SA and Securitel SPRL [1996] ECR I-2201

Key point

  • National laws on ‘technical regulations’ that was enacted without compliance with notification requirement under Directive 83/189 are disapplied even in a horizontal dispute

Facts

  • Signalson publicly claimed that CIA Security’s alarm system had not been approved under a Belgian Royal Decree
  • CIA Security sued Signalson for libel
  • CIA Security did indeed fail to seek approval but it argued that the Belgian legislation was not notified to the Commission as required by Directive 83/189 on technical standards and regulations

Ruling

  • Ruling in favour of CIA Security – the Royal Decree was a technical regulation and a national court must decline to apply a technical regulation that was not notified in accordance with the Directive 83/189

Judgment

  • The directive lay down a precise obligation to notify technical regulations to the Commission before they are adopted, which is unconditional and sufficiently precise to have direct effect
  • The aim of the Directive was to protect the free movement of goods and it would enhance the effectiveness of the rule to prove that a breach of obligation to notify would render the domestic rule null

Commentary

  • The procedural obligation is on the member state, thus the obligation has an ‘incidental effect’ on private parties
  • The ECJ did not refer to Marshall and did not recognise that this was a horizontal dispute
  • Technically speaking, the effect of Directive 83/189 was not to impose an obligation on Signalson but to remove the protection of a national regulation and exposed it to liability
  • Disapplication for a procedural infringement is very harsh (compare to interim injunction that was ordered in Factortame)
  • This case and Unilever Italia supports the primacy model of EU law, which holds that the primacy of EU law produces exclusionary effect (the setting aside of incompatible national rules), independently of the principle of direct effect, in contrast to the trigger model, which holds that the EU law excludes national law only when it has direct effect in national law