Atral of France’s wireless alarm system complied with all relevant EU laws. But in Belgium, it still couldn’t launch or market its products without separate tests and approvals. It challenged this in the courts and we report the ECJ judgement.
Topic: Single market
Who: ATRAL SA v Belgian State
Where: European Court of Justice
When: May 2003
A French company called ATRAL made and marketed alarm systems and networks linked by radio, more commonly known as wireless alarm systems. In 1999 it found that the introduction in Belgium of a royal decree prevented them from marketing their products in Belgium without previously undergoing a series of tests and obtaining approval.
This was despite the fact that ATRAL manufactured its systems in accordance with all relevant EU legislation and marked its apparatus accordingly, with the CE mark. In those circumstances it saw no reason why it should not be able to market its products in Belgium in the same way as in any other EU state. It therefore challenged the Belgian decree through the Belgian courts and the case reached the European Courts of Justice.
The ECJ found that there was no justification for the Belgian decree. The previous EU directives impacting on the marketing across Europe of alarm systems and networks as well as radio equipment were all introduced with the intention of creating a harmonised market throughout Europe in relevant systems. The Belgian decree threatened all these directives and was a quantitative restriction on imports which could not be justified.
Accordingly the Belgian decree could not be supported unless it met certain overriding requirements laid down in the case law of the court, such as the requirement of proportionality, or could otherwise be justified under article 30 of the Treaty of Rome. There is no suggestion in the ECJ report that such circumstances applied here.
Why this matters:
It is surprising that EU member states still persist in introducing measures which are quite obviously inimical to the single market. Cases like this are thankfully occurring less frequently these days as the message is driven home, but the ECJ is not prepared to countenance measures of this kind. It is only to be regretted that the decision took some four years to be reached.