Zenith CC&P Current Awareness

​Court of Justice rules on application of Article 101 TFEU to setting minimum legal fees

27 November 2017

Prof. Suzanne Rab

The Court of Justice has ruled on two references from the Bulgarian court seeking a preliminary ruling on the application of Article 101 TFEU to the setting of a minimum level of legal fees by the Bulgarian Supreme Council of the legal Profession.

The court asked whether Article 101(1) TFEU precludes a national provision whereby a professional association has discretion to set down in advance minimum legal fees.

The Court found that Article 101 TFEU (when read with article 4(3) TEU) must be interpreted as meaning that national legislation which does not allow a lawyer and his client to agree fees in an amount less than the minimum amount laid down in regulation, without that lawyer being subject to a disciplinary procedure, and which does not authorise the courts to order reimbursement of fees in an amount below that minimum amount, is capable of restricting competition in the internal market within the meaning of Article 101(1) TFEU.

The Court said that it was for the national court to confirm whether the legislation actually met with legitimate objectives and whether the restrictions were limited to what was necessary to achieve those objectives.

The case illustrates the interaction between rules imposed under professional services regulation and competition law in what is becoming an interesting battle ground.  There are already indications of the readiness of the CAT to consider standalone competition claims and, in particular, in relation to the decisions of an approved regulator.  For example, the CAT has recently found that the requirement under the terms of the Conveyancing Quality Scheme that members of the scheme must obtain certain training courses exclusively from the Law Society breaches the Chapter I and Chapter II prohibition (Case 1249/5/7/16 Socrates Training Limited v The Law Society of England and Wales [2017] CAT 10).

Joined cases C‑427/16 and C‑428/16 - CHEZ Elektro Bulgaria v Yordan Kotsev and FrontEx International v Emil Yanakiev (not yet available in English)

Current Awareness

By the CC&P team