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Advocate General’s welcome confirmation of retail as a service

19 May 2017
by EuroCommerce -- last modified 19 May 2017

EuroCommerce welcomed the Advocate-General’s opinion today in the Visser case (C-31/16), that retail should be considered a service within the meaning of the Services Directive.


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This confirms earlier jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union, and increases legal certainty for retail businesses in the EU.

EuroCommerce Director-General Christian Verschueren said:

"The Services Directive is one of the cornerstones of EU law, allowing retail and wholesale businesses to operate in the internal market. The opinion of the Advocate-General published in the Visser case is a welcome confirmation of the applicability of the Services directive to retail, and we hope that the Court will follow this opinion, and provide legal certainty for 5.4 million businesses operating in the EU and the 29 million people working in our sector."

In 2016 the Dutch Council of State lodged a request for a preliminary ruling in the case of Visser Vastgoed Beleggingen BV v Raad van de gemeente Appingedam (Case C-31/16). The request raised fundamental questions concerning the application of the Services Directive to the retail sector, inter alia whether retail was a service within the meaning of the Services Directive, whether the Directive applied to town and country planning rules, and whether it applied to national situations only. It will now be up to the Court to decide on the case in the light of the Advocate-General's opinion. Their decision will have a significant impact on retail activities in all Member States.

Retailers and wholesalers do not dispute the right of local authorities to apply town and country planning rules in the public interest, but as the Advocate-General finds in the opinion, it is important that such requirements are implemented in a non-discriminatory and proportionate manner. Regarding the key question of whether retail and wholesale are services, the EU and national authorities, and other business sectors, have always considered retail and wholesale as service activities.

EuroCommerce is the voice for six million retail, wholesale, and other trading companies. Its members include national commerce federations in 31 countries, Europe's 27 leading retail and wholesale companies, and federations representing specific sectors of commerce.

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