On 23 April 2020, AG Szpunar delivered an Opinion in Case C‑73/19 (Belgische Staat, represented by the Minister van Werk, Economie en Consumenten, responsible for Buitenlandse handel; Belgische Staat, represented by the Directeur-Generaal van de Algemene Directie Economische Inspectie; Directeur-Generaal van de Algemene Directie Economische Inspectie V. Movic BV; Events Belgium BV; Leisure Tickets & Activities International BV).
The Opinion focused on the concept of ‘civil and commercial matters’ in Brussels I bis Regulation.
The preliminary ruling request was submitted by the Court of Appeal of Antwerp – hof van beroep te Antwerpen (Beligum), which asked whether, following the decision of the Court of Justice of 1 October 2002, in the case C-167/00, Verein für Konsumenteninformation and Karl Heinz Henkel, where it was held that the concept of ‘civil and commercial matters’, which defines the scope of the majority of EU instruments of private international law, encompassed proceedings in which an action for an injunction preventing the use of unfair terms was brought by a consumer protection association, could also include actions for an injunction brought by public authorities to protect the interests of consumers in relation to unfair market and/or commercial practices.
The AG Szpunar answered in the affermative, stating that art. 1, par. 1 of Brussels I bis Reg. shall be interpreted as meaning that also such actions, together with an order for the cessation of those practices, an order for measures of publicity at the expense of the defendants, and an order for penalty payments to be made in a fixed amount in respect of every future infringement, fall within the notion of “civil and commercial matters” for the purpose of the Regulation.