Functioning of the ODR Platform: EU Commission Publishes First Results

Written by Emma van Gelder and Alexandre Biard, Erasmus University Rotterdam (PhD and postdoc researchers ERC project Building EU Civil Justice)

On 13 December 2017, the European Commission published a report on the functioning of the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) Platform for consumer disputes, and the findings of a web-scraping exercise of EU traders’ websites that investigated traders’ compliance with their information obligations vis-à-vis consumers. Read more

Conference Report: Contracts for the Supply of Digital Content and Digital Services, A legal debate on the proposed directive, ERA Brussels, 22 November 2017

Written by Antonella Nolten, Research Fellow at the EBS Law School, Wiesbaden, Germany

On 22 November 2017 the Academy of European Law (ERA) hosted a conference on the recent developments on the Proposal for a Digital Content Directive in Brussels. Read more

Bob Wessels, International Insolvency Law: Part II European Insolvency Law, 4th edition 2017, Wolters Kluwer

Written by Lukas Schmidt, Research Fellow at the Center for Transnational Commercial Dispute Resolution (TCDR) of the EBS Law School, Wiesbaden, Germany

With International Insolvency Law Part II having been published, Bob Wessels’ 10 volume series ‘Insolventierecht’ (Insolvency Law) is now completed in its 4th edition. The publication comprehensively deals with the European Insolvency Regulation Recast as entered into force on 26 June 2017, while International Insolvency Law: Part I Global Perspectives on Cross-Border Insolvency Law, already published at the end of 2015, covers the core concepts of Cross-Border Insolvency Law, other regional frameworks than the EIR and relevant instruments of soft law. Read more

Deference to Foreign Sovereign Submissions

As previously reported here, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued a decision in 2016 reversing a $147.8 million price-fixing judgment against two Chinese manufacturers of Vitamin C. The plaintiffs alleged that the Chinese manufacturers engaged in price fixing and supply manipulation in violation of U.S. antitrust laws. In its first ever appearance as an amicus before a U.S. court, the Chinese government filed a formal statement asserting that Chinese law required the Chinese manufacturers to set prices and reduce the quantities of Vitamin C sold abroad. Relying on this statement, the Second Circuit held that because the Chinese manufacturers could not comply with both Chinese law and the U.S. antitrust laws, principles of international comity compelled dismissal of the case.

This case raises a host of interesting questions. First, did the Second Circuit reach the right result? Second, is this a comity case or a foreign sovereign compulsion case? Third, what level of deference is due to a foreign sovereign that appears in private litigation to explain their country’s laws? Fourth, should U.S. judges defer to such an explanation?

In June 2017, the United States Supreme Court called for the views of the United States.  This past Tuesday, the Solicitor General (SG) filed this brief in response to the Court’s order.

Jurisdiction, Conflict of Laws and Data Protection in Cyberspace

Report on the Conference held in Luxembourg on 12 October 2017, by Martina Mantovani, Research Fellow MPI Luxembourg

On 12 October 2017, the Brussels Privacy Hub (BPH) at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Department of European and Comparative Procedural Law of the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg held a joint conference entitled “Jurisdiction, Conflicts of Law and Data Protection in Cyberspace”. The conference, which was attended by nearly 100 people, included presentations by academics from around the world, as well as from Advocate General Henrik Saugmandsgaard Øe of the Court of Justice of the European Union. The entire conference was filmed and is available for viewing on the YouTube Channel of the Max Planck Institute Luxembourg (first and second parts) Read more

Chinese courts made decision taking into account of the Hague Choice of Court Convention

China has signed the Hague Choice of Court Convention on 12 September 2017, but has not yet ratified this Convention. The Hague Choice of Court Convention has not entered into force in China. However, Shanghai High Court has already relied on the Hague Choice of Court Convention to make decision.

In Cathay United Bank v Gao, Shanghai High Court, (2016) Hu Min Xia Zhong No 99, the appellant, a Taiwan commercial bank, and the respondent, a Chinese citizen resident in Shanghai, entered into a Guarantee contract. It included a clause choosing Taiwan court as the competent court to hear disputes arising out of the contract. This clause did not specify whether it was exclusive or not. Chinese law does not provide how to decide exclusivity of a choice of court agreement. Facing the legal gap, Shanghai High Court took into account Article 3 of the Hague Choice of Court Convention 2005 and decided that choice of court agreements should be exclusive unless the parties stated otherwise. The Shanghai High Court thus declined jurisdiction in favour of Taiwan Court.

EU Member State sees opportunities in Brexit: Belgium is establishing a new English-language commercial court

Expecting higher demands for international commercial dispute resolution following Britain’s departure from the EU, Belgium plans to set up a new English-language commercial court, the Brussels International Business Court (BIBC), to take cases away from the courts and tribunals in London. This decision was announced on 27 Oct 2017. This BIBC is designed to address disputes arising out of Brexit and major international commercial disputes. The court will take jurisdiction based on parties’ choice, and will do the hearing and deliver judgments in English. The parties would have no right to appeal. BIBC combines elements of both traditional courts and arbitration. See comments here.

Although Brexit may cause uncertainty to litigants in the UK, a survey suggests that the EU judicial cooperation scheme is not the main reason for international parties choosing London to resolve their disputes. The top two factors that attract international litigants to London are the reputation and experience of English judges and combination of choice of court clauses with choice of law clauses in favor of English law,  followed by efficient remedies, procedural effectiveness, neutrality of the forum, market practice, English language, effective UK-based counsel, speed and enforceability of judgments. Furthermore, Brexit will not affect the New York Convention and would less likely affect London as an arbitration centre. It may be more reasonable to suggest that the main purpose of BIBC is not to compete with London at the international level, but to offer additional judicial tool and become a new commercial dispute resolution centre within the EU to attract companies and businesses to Brussels.

CJEU on the place of the damage under Article 7(2) of Brussels Ia as regards violation of personality rights of a legal person

First personal impressions presented by Edina Márton, LLM, PhD (Saarbruecken)

For jurisdictional purposes, the localisation of cross-border violations of personality rights under European instruments, such as Regulation (EU) No 1215/2012 (Brussels Ia), has attracted the attention of a considerable number of scholars and often led to different legal solutions in the national judicial practice. At EU level, besides Shevill (C-68/93; ECLI:EU:C:1995:61) as well as eDate and Martinez (C-509/09 and C-161/20; ECLI:EU:C:2011:685), since 17 October 2017, a third judgment in case Bolagsupplysningen (C-194/16; ECLI:EU:C:2017:766) has given further clarification in this area. In the recently delivered judgment, the ECJ specified one of the two limbs of the connecting factor “where the harmful event occurred or may occur” under Article 7(2) of Brussels Ia, namely the place of the alleged damage. Read more

Is “la réserve héréditaire” part of French international public policy ?

Through two decisions (Civ. 1ère, 27 sept. 2017, n° 16-17198 et 16-13151) both issued on September 27th, The French Cour de cassation finally gave an answer to one of the most discussed question of French Succession law: Is la réserve héréditaire part of French international public policy?

The circumstances of both cases are very similar. Two French composers living in California, where they had most of their assets, got married respectively in 1984 and 1990. They put their assets in a trust and designated their wives as beneficiaries. In both cases, the settlers did not designate the children they had from previous relationships as beneficiaries of the trust. After the death of their fathers, the latter turned to French courts in order to obtain part of the inheritance. They argued that the Californian law applicable to the succession should be declared contrary to French international public policy for not including a réserve héréditaire for certain heirs.

According to Article 912 §1 of the French Civil Code, la réserve hérédiataire or the reserved portion « is that part of the assets and rights of the succession whose devolution, free of charge, the law assures to certain heirs, called forced heirs, if they are called to the succession and if they accept it ». In other words, under French succession law, a person cannot freely dispose of all of his or her assets. French law set boundaries by putting aside a reserved portion of the deceased’s property. However, he or she can freely dispose of the disposable portion (quotité disponible) which is defined as « that part of the assets and rights of the succession that is not reserved by law and of which the deceased can freely dispose by liberalities » (Article 912 § 2).

Freedom of establishment after Polbud: Free transfer of the registered office

Bastian Brunk, research assistant and doctoral student at the Institute for Comparative and Private International Law at the University of Freiburg (Germany), has provided us with the following first thoughts on the CJEU’s groundbreaking Polbud judgment.

The Judgment

In its judgment in Polbud (C-106/16), the CJEU again took the work out of the EU legislature’s hands while further developing the freedom of establishment provided for in Articles 49 and 54 TFEU. The case was heard following a request for a preliminary ruling under Article 267 TFEU by the Sad Najwyzszy (Supreme Court of Poland). In short, the CJEU had to decide on the following questions:

(1) Are Articles 49 and 54 TFEU applicable to a transfer of the registered office of a company incorporated under the law of one Member State to the territory of another Member State with the purpose of converting its legal form, when the company has no intention to change the location of its real head office or to conduct real economic activity in the latter Member State?