Case Law: Ingmar GB Ltd v. Eaton Leonard Technologies Inc.

8 Colum. J. Eur. L. 85 (2002)

Thalia Kruger. Assistant at the Institute for International Trade Law, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven.

Ingmar GB Ltd v. Eaton Leonard Technologies Inc., Case C-381/98, 2000 E.C.R. I-9305

This judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Communities responds to preliminary questions posed by the Court of Appeal of England and Wales (Civil Division), United Kingdom. At issue was the EC Directive on the coordination of the laws of the Member States relating to self-employed commercial agents (Agency Directive) and its scope. The aim of the Agency Directive is to harmonize the different laws in the EC. This harmonization is necessary for the functioning of the European Community market.

The Directive applies to the laws of the Member States governing the relations between commercial agents and their principles. It prescribes rules regarding the rights and obligations of agents and principals vis-à-vis one another, remuneration of agents and the conclusion and termination of the agency contract. It specifically provides that Member States should take measures to ensure that a commercial agent is, after termination of the agreement, indemnified in accordance with the Directive. Next, there is a stipulation of when an agent is entitled to indemnity and damages. The Directive was based on continental civil law, and in particular German law.

The Agency Directive, like all directives, is binding upon the Member States of the European Union. The Member States are free with regards to the form and method used to implement a directive in their national laws. Therefore, when a case comes before a court, the legislation upon which the parties base their arguments
will not be the directive itself, but rather the national legislation implementing the directive in national law.

The Agency Directive was transcribed to UK law by the Commercial Agents Regulations 1993. They entered into force on 1 January 1994.11 These Regulations changed UK law in the sense that they gave agents a quasi-proprietary interest in the business. Agents obtained a right to be compensated for invasions of this quasi- proprietary interest, even against express terms of the contract. The Regulations apply in relation to the activities of commercial agents in Great Britain. They do not apply where the parties have agreed that the law of another EU Member State should govern their contract.