(content provided by EuroCommerce) In the Visser case, the Advocate-General has stated that retail should be considered a service within the meaning of the Services Directive. EuroCommerce welcomes this confirmation of earlier jurisprudence.
Cornerstone of EU law
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.