General corporate: Infringement proceedings

United Kingdom
The Commission has sent reasoned opinions to Belgium, Ireland, Italy and Spain for maintaining what it thinks are obstacles to the freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment. Sending a reasoned opinion is the second stage in infringement proceedings under Article 169 of the EC Treaty.

Belgian law requires that natural or legal persons who are neither resident nor established in Belgium must be represented by a professional representative for nearly all dealings with the Belgian patents office. Such professional representatives must be either Belgian or resident in Belgium. Belgium has undertaken to amend its legislation.

In Ireland, the 1956 Gambling and Lotteries Act prohibits participation (such as by purchasing tickets) in other Member States' lotteries. It also recognises only those lotteries licensed by the Irish authorities which are promoted and organised solely within Ireland. The Commission thinks that his contravenes the principle of freedom to provide services and that the organisation and promotion of lotteries are economic activities (services) and should be able to benefit from the single market.

Spanish law provides that property transactions by non-residents are a foreign investment and must therefore be executed by a Spanish notary - even if the agreement has been concluded before a foreign notary. The Commission says that this impedes the free movement of workers, freedom of establishment, freedom to provide services and free movement of capital.

The Commission also is unhappy with the Italian rules on commercial agents and believes that they contravene the Commercial Agents Directive. For example, Italian law does not give effect to the provisions entitling each party to an agency contract to request either a copy of the written contract or insist that any verbal agreement be evidenced in writing. Further, Italian law does not restrict commission after the agency contract is terminated to those transactions entered into within a reasonable period after the termination of the contract.