Droit international général

Singapore Court of Appeal Affirms Party Autonomy in Choice of Court Agreements

Conflictoflaws - ven, 06/14/2019 - 11:15

Professor Yeo Tiong Min, SC (honoris causa), Yong Pung How Professor of Law at Singapore Management University, has kindly provided the following report:

“The Singapore Court of Appeal has recently affirmed the significance of giving effect to party autonomy in the enforcement of choice of court agreements under the common law in three important decisions handed down in quick succession, on different aspects of the matter: the legal effect of exclusive choice of court agreements, the interpretation and effect of non-exclusive choice of court agreements, and the effect of exclusive choice of court agreements on anti-suit injunctions.

In Vinmar Overseas (Singapore) Pte Ltd v PTT International Trading Pte Ltd [2018] SGCA 65, proceedings were commenced in Singapore in respect of an alleged breach of a commercial sale contract containing an exclusive choice of English court agreement. The agreement was dated before the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements took effect in English law, so the Convention was not engaged. Like many other common law countries, the Singapore courts would give effect to the agreement unless strong cause can be demonstrated by the party seeking to breach the agreement. A complication arose because there had been four previous decisions of the Court of Appeal in the shipping context where proceedings had been allowed to continue in Singapore in the face of an exclusive choice of foreign court agreement because the court had found that the defence was devoid of merits. The claimant’s argument that based on these decisions the Singapore court should hear the case because there was no valid defence to its claim succeeded before the High Court.

Sitting as a coram of five on the basis of the significance of the issue, the Court of Appeal unanimously reversed the decision. It decided that the merits of the case were not a relevant consideration at the stage where the court was determining whether to exercise its jurisdiction, and departed from its previous decisions to the extent that they stood to the contrary. While affirming the continuing validity of the strong cause test, the court placed considerable emphasis on the element of contractual enforcement. Thus, factors that were reasonably foreseeable at the time of contracting would generally carry little or no weight. In particular, the court recast one of the traditional factors in the strong cause test, “whether the defendants genuinely desire trial in the foreign country, or are only seeking procedural advantages”, as an inquiry into whether the party seeking to enforce the choice of court agreement was acting abusively in the context of cross-border litigation. In the view of the court, the genuine desire for trial in the contractual forum has been adequately expressed in the choice of court agreement itself, and it is legitimate to seek the procedural advantages in the contractual forum. The court considered that strong cause would generally need to be established by either proof that the party seeking trial in the contractual forum was acting in an abusive manner (which is said to be a very high threshold), or that the party evading the contractual forum will be denied justice in that forum (ignoring the foreseeable factors), for example if war had broken out in that jurisdiction.

The court left open the question whether the same approach would be taken if the choice of court agreement had not been freely negotiated, taking cognisance of situations, especially in the shipping context, where contracting parties may find themselves bound by clauses the contents of which they have had no prior notice. The court expressed the tentative view that as a matter of consistency, the same approach should be adopted.

In Shanghai Turbo Enterprises Ltd v Liu Ming [2019] SGCA 11, the Court of Appeal was faced with an unusual clause: “This Agreement shall be governed by the laws of Singapore/or People’s Republic of China and each of the parties hereto submits to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the Courts of Singapore/or People’s Republic of China.” The High Court found the choice of law agreement to be meaningless as a purported floating choice of law, and that the choice of court agreement was invalid as it could not be severed from the choice of law agreement. The court then applied the natural forum test and declined to exercise jurisdiction on the basis that China was the clearly more appropriate forum for the dispute. On appeal, the Court of Appeal agreed with the finding that the choice of law agreement was invalid, but held that the choice of court agreement could be severed from the choice of law agreement.

In a prior decision, the Court of Appeal in Orchard Capital I Ltd v Ravindra Kumar Jhunjhunwala [2012] SGCA 16, had considered a non-exclusive choice of court clause to be relevant at the very least as a factor in the natural forum test, and that the weight to be accorded to the factor depended on the circumstances of each case. It also considered that there was another possible approach to such clauses based on contractual enforcement principles, which it did not fully endorse as the parties had not raised arguments based on contractual intentions.

In Shanghai Turbo, the Court of Appeal had to face this issue squarely, and affirmed that if there is a contractual promise in the non-exclusive choice of court clause, the party seeking to breach the agreement had to demonstrate strong cause why it should be allowed to do so. The court went on to hold that, generally, where Singapore contract law is applicable, the “most commercially sensible and reasonable” construction of an agreement to submit, albeit non-exclusively, to a court is that the parties have agreed not to object to the exercise of jurisdiction by the chosen court. This inference does not depend on there being an independent basis for the chosen court to assume jurisdiction (eg, by way of choice of law agreement), or on the number of courts named in the clause. Conversely, there is generally no inference that the parties have agreed that the chosen court is the most appropriate forum to hear the case.

Thus, practically, where there is a non-exclusive choice of Singapore court clause, in general the Singapore will hear the case unless strong cause (the same test elucidated in Vinmar) is demonstrated by the party objecting to the exercise of jurisdiction by the Singapore court, but where there is a non-exclusive choice of foreign court clause, this is merely a factor in the natural forum test, as the party seeking trial in Singapore is not in breach of any agreement. On the facts, the court held that jurisdiction should be exercised because the defendant could not demonstrate strong cause.

It is to be noted these are canons of construction under Singapore law. Under Singapore private international law, the choice of court agreement is governed by the law that governs the main contract unless the parties have indicated otherwise. However, Singapore law will apply in default of proof of foreign law. Moreover, canons of construction may be displaced by evidence of contrary intention. The court left open the question – expressing no tentative view – whether the same approach would be taken for contracts which are not freely negotiated. However, as this is a question of interpretation, the context of negotiation could be a relevant indication of the true meaning of contractual terms.

The third case is on arbitration, but the Court of Appeal also made comments relevant to choice of court agreements. In Sun Travels & Tours Pvt Ltd v Hilton International (Maldives) Pvt Ltd [2019] SGCA 10, an injunction was sought to prevent reliance on a foreign judgment obtained in proceedings commenced in breach of an arbitration agreement. The court correctly identified the remedy sought as an anti-enforcement injunction, but nevertheless also discussed the anti-suit injunction because the case was argued on the basis that the injunction sought followed from an entitlement to an anti-suit injunction. The court clarified that an anti-suit injunction would generally be granted to enforce a choice of court agreement unless strong cause is demonstrated why it should be denied, and that there is no need to demonstrate vexatious or oppressive conduct independently. Thus, the law in this area is the mirror image of Vinmar. This case is particularly significant for Singapore because statements in the previous Court of Appeal decision in John Reginald Stott Kirkham v Trane US Inc [2009] SGCA 32 could be read as suggesting that the breach of contract is merely one factor to consider in determining whether the conduct of foreign proceedings abroad was vexatious.

These common law developments are highly significant in bringing greater consistency with developments elsewhere where party autonomy has come to assume tremendous significance. One is the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements which took effect in Singapore law on 1 October 2016. Two critical aspects of this Convention are that a choice of the court of a Contracting State is deemed to be exclusive unless there are express provisions to the contrary, and that the chosen court should assume jurisdiction unless the choice of court clause is invalid. The second is the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) established in 2015. Where there is a choice (whether exclusive or not) of SICC clause, the SICC will assume jurisdiction unless the case is not an appropriate one having regard to the court’s character as an international commercial court. In addition, under the Rules of Court, a choice of the Singapore High Court made on or after 1 October 2016 is presumed to include the SICC unless expressly indicated otherwise. In both situations, the common law is not relevant, and to that extent, the practical effects of Vinmar and Shanghai Turbo will be limited. However, the extent to which anti-suit injunctions will be consistent with the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements remains an open question, and it is certainly an area for watch for further developments.”

A more detailed discussion of the cases mentioned above can be found at: https://cebcla.smu.edu.sg/sites/cebcla.smu.edu.sg/files/Paper2019.pdf

 

 

Legal Officer Vacancy at the Permanent Bureau of the HCCH

Conflictoflaws - mer, 06/12/2019 - 09:22

The Permanent Bureau of the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCCH) is seeking to fill a Legal Officer position in the field of legal co-operation. The deadline for applications is 7 July 2019. For more information, click here.

The successful candidate is expected to assist with the preparation of the new editions of the Apostille Handbook and the Practical Handbooks on the Service and Evidence Conventions. In addition, and depending on the work programme of the HCCH governance body, “he or she will gradually also be expected to carry out work in other areas, including family law and commercial / finance law.”

The starting date is Monday 2 September 2019. The Permanent Bureau is offering a two-year contract with the possibility of renewal.

Hotel contracts and jurisdiction clauses before Greek courts

Conflictoflaws - mar, 06/11/2019 - 22:25

Dr Haris P. Meidanis – FCIArb, Meidanis, Seremetakis & Associates Law Firm, Athens, Greece

A recent judgment of the Mytilene Court of First Instance raised a very topical issue, related to the acceptance of international jurisdiction by Greek Courts in the case of hotel contracts, nothwistanding the prorogation clause in favour of the court of some other member state (in this case the courts of the Netherlands).

 

The guarantee contracts

The position of the court was that such a contract (a so-called guarantee) that essentially guarantees the payment of a certain number of hotel rooms by the tour operator, irrespective of the actual use of the reserved rooms, can be characterised as a lease contract for immovable property under the meaning of art. 24 of the Brussels Ia Regulation. The underlying idea is that such a contract is predominantly a lease contract regarding immovable property and the services aspect that coexists with the lease character of the same contract is diluted into the latter. Under this line of arguments, the court found that, nothwistanding the prorogation clause in favour of the courts of the Netherlands, the court of the place of the immovable property (Greece and in particular Mytilene) should be the only competent to hear the case (art. 24 of Brussels Ia Regulation).

 

The allotment contracts

Interestingly, similar judgments of other courts of touristic destinations in Greece (Dodecanese islands, like Kos and Rhodes or of the Ionian island of Corfu) have issued similar judgments in the past, also in relation to the so-called allotment hotel contracts. Under them, the tour operator reserves rooms spanning from a minimum to a maximum pre-agreed number and agrees to use as many of them as it can and at the same time to lift by an agreed d-day, the reservation for the ones that are not to be used. Therefore, under the allotment contract, the reservation is not “guaranteed” for the totality of the rooms in question, as is the case with the “guarantee” contract. This point is generally downplayed by Greek courts who seem to be in favour of the application of art. 24 par. 1 of the Brussels I Regulation in every hotel contract, by emphasising on the fact that the primary character of such contracts is the lease.

 

Critique

This approach, although it does generally make sense, it also merits some qualification. To start with, the prorogation clause is a clause to be preserved by the parties. As is well known, one of the two ways to depart from such a clause in the context of Brussels Ia Regulation (the other is the tacit prorogation), is the case of the so-called exclusive jurisdiction of art. 24, the case of immovable property being one of them: This is the case among others “in proceedings which have as their object …tenancies of immovable property”. As explained, under Greek case law, it is admitted that this is the case and such contracts are predominantly lease of property contracts. Essentially, the question of pinpointing the legal nature of the guarantee and the allotment hotel contracts, is one of characterisation of private international law. It is  generally submitted that characterisation should not be made lege fori and it should take into account the meaning of the relevant juridical categories in a wider/ international environment. This been said, it looks that Greek courts tend to do the characterisation lege fori in relation to hotel contracts, presumably in order to feel more comfortable with an argumentation made in the context of Greek law only. To be noted that this approach in relation to art. 24 of the Brussels Ia Regulation has a strong support also by the doctrine, which at least partly, supports the lege situs interpretation,[1] which in our case coincides with the lex fori. Nevertheless, the suggestion of approaching the matter without a strict lege situs or lege fori approach, that is under the so-called autonomous interpretation, widely used under the various EU PIL Regulations, should not be underplayed. The Hacker case (C-280/90) is also relevant, to the extent that it excludes the application of art. 24 par. 1 in the case of package holidays. Therefore, the predominantly lease dimension of the hotel contracts under Greek law, should not always be taken for granted. The main question is whether the above described hotel contracts are contracts for lease of property under the above points. As a matter of fact, in hotel contracts, the counter signatory of the hotel owner is not the actual user of the property, but a tour operator who then “sells” a package to the end user. On the other hand, from the hotel owner point of view, the contract is predominantly a lease contract. Another critical point is that in real life, the imbalance of powers between a north European tour operator and a local 25 rooms family hotel can be enormous. Especially In the case that the tour operator simply reserves the totality of the hotel rooms and cancels the reservation without good cause, it puts the hotel owner in the extremely burdensome situation to have to file an action somewhere in Europe, usually in “unknown territory” and under generally uncomfortable conditions. If, therefore the totality of the hotel rooms (or almost the totality) is involved, it can be said that the lease dimension of the agreement should indeed always prevail, and this should generally be the case in guarantee hotel contracts. This should be so no matter if the autonomous or the lege situs characterisation is followed. This is not necessarily the case if a small number of the rooms of hotels are reserved or in the case of allotment. In the latter case, perhaps the reservation of the totality of the rooms should again direct us towards the application of art. 24 par. 1, but following a closer examination of the terms of the hotel agreement in order for us to be able to examine if in casu the lease dimension again prevails and if the cancellation of the agreement should end up to a damage to the owner, similar to the one it would suffer in the case of cancellation of a guarantee contract. In this context, the rest of the facts of the case, i.e percentage of the rooms in relation to overall number of rooms of the hotel in question, the degree of power imbalance of the parties, the rest of the services involved (see for example Pammer case C-585/08) cannot be ignored.

[1] De Lima Pinheiro, in Magnus/ Mankowski Brussels I Regulation 2nd ed. Seller 2012, art. 22 par. 25.

61st Seminar of Comparative and European Law of Urbino (Italy)

Conflictoflaws - mar, 06/11/2019 - 09:55

The 61th edition of the Séminaire de Droit Comparé et Européen /Seminar of Comparative and European Law of Urbino (Italy) will be held next summer, from 19 to 31 August. 

The Urbino Seminar has been taking place uninterruptedly since 1959. The underlying idea is to contribute to the development of knowledge of Comparative,  International (both public and private) and European law, benefiting of the relaxing time of the year and of the serenity of the environment of Urbino. The Seminar promotes multilingual competencies: presentations are in French, English or Italian, often followed by summarized translations in the other two languages.

This year’s seminar’s main topics are legislative cycle, international tax and bank law, new technologies, Brexit, European consumer law, public procurement, enforcement of foreign judgments, international criminal law and Unidroit principles. Speaker include Prof. Marie-Elodie ANCEL, (Paris-Est Créteil, UPEC), Alessandro BONDI (University of Urbino), Robert BRAY, (European Parliament), Georges CAVALIER (Université Jean Moulin, Lyon III), Emilio DE CAPITANI, (FREE Group), Andrea GIUSSANI (University of Urbino),  Francis Brendan JACOBS (University College Dublin), Jens KARSTEN (LL.M., Attorney-at-Law), Luigi MARI (University of Urbino), Triestino MARINIELLO (Edge Hill University),  Fabrizio MARRELLA (University of Venice Ca’ Foscari), Paolo MOROZZO DELLA ROCCA (University of Urbino), Ilaria PRETELLI (Swiss Institute of Comparative Law), Edoardo Alberto ROSSI (University of Urbino), Tuto ROSSI (Université de Fribourg), Helmut SATZGER (Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich), Martin SVATOS (Charles University), Shlomit YANISKY-RAVID (Ono Academic College)

The whole program, as well as email addresses for further information,is available here, together with information on  enrollment, accommodation, and how to get to Urbino.

Bobek AG in Salvoni v Fiermonte. Brussels Ia’s Article 53 certificate and consumer protection.

GAVC - mar, 06/11/2019 - 08:08

Bobek AG Opined early May (excuse posting delay) in Case C-347/18 Salvoni v Fiermonte. The referring court enquires whether the court of origin tasked with issuing the Article 53 Certificate (issued with a view to enabling swift recognition and enforcement) may, of its own motion, seek to ascertain whether the judgment whose enforcement is sought was issued in breach of the rules on jurisdiction over consumer contracts, so that it may, where appropriate, inform the consumer of any such breach and enable her to consider the possibility of opposing enforcement of the judgment in the Member State addressed.

A related issue therefore to the CJEU judgment in Weil last week.

Mr Alessandro Salvoni, a lawyer based in Milan, asked the Tribunale di Milano (District Court, Milan) to issue Ms Anna Maria Fiermonte (who resides in Hamburg) with a payment order for an amount owed to him as consideration for the professional services rendered by him in connection with legal proceedings concerning a will. Payment order was granted, no challenge was made by Ms Fiermonte (at 24 the AG emphasises that evidently, the court needs to check whether proper service was made). Mr Salvoni then requested the same court to issue the Article 53 Certificate with respect to that order. However this time the same court (with the AG at 22 one can assume that composition was different) proprio motu (and belatedly: see at 15) classified the relationship as B2C under the relevant provisions of Brussels Ia. Ms Fiermonte should have been sued in Hamburg.

Bobek AG courteously calls the court’s initiative ingenious and well-intended (at 29) but has no choice but to conclude that the Regulation simply has no tool for the Court somehow to mitigate let alone correct its earlier mistake. In a gesture effectively of public service (at 34; this rescues something useful from the otherwise fairly futile exercise; I doubt the CJEU will do something similar), the AG then rephrases the question into a more general one, which is detached from the specific course of action apparently contemplated by the national court: Is a national court, when issuing the Article 53 Certificate, entitled (or even obliged), under EU law, to ascertain whether the judicial decision that is to be certified was issued in breach of the rules on jurisdiction over consumer contracts?

At 44 ff the AG delightfully side-steps the chicken and hen issue of the C-54/96 Dorsch criteria (is an A53 court a ‘court’ entitled to preliminary review under Article 267 TFEU) and eventually concludes that there is no room for the A53 Court to assess the application of the consumer title. At 54: ‘

The interpretation of [A53] proposed by the referring court cannot easily be reconciled with the above considerations [speed; simplicity: GAVC]. In particular, that interpretation would in effect back-pedal on one of the main features of the new system introduced by Regulation No 1215/2012. Indeed, the checks that were previously made in the Member State addressed when issuing the exequatur would not be eliminated, but merely shifted to the certification stage carried out in the Member State of origin. That reading of the provision would thus run against the logic and spirit of Regulation No 1215/2012.’

At 81 and 82 the likely outcome of course is pointed at by the AG: Article 45(1)(e)(i) and Article 46 BIa grant consumers a special ground of refusal of recognition and enforcement in cases where the judgment in question conflicts with the jurisdictional rules for the protected categories. This ground has now been handed Ms Fiermonte on a plate – leaving the Milan courts with red cheeks.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.2, Heading 2.2.16.

 

JPIL 15 (2019), Issue 1

Conflictoflaws - lun, 06/10/2019 - 11:59

Issue 1 of the Journal of Private International Law is now available. It contains the following articles:

Rhona Schuz, Choice of law in relation to matrimonial property in the 21st century, pp. 1-49

Abstract: The traditional lack of consensus in relation to the choice of law rule/s governing matrimonial property has become topical and relevant over the last few years. The European Union, concerned about the impact of the disparities between the laws of Member States in this field, in the light of increasing divorce and migration, embarked on an initiative to harmonize private international law rules in relation to matrimonial property. However, the Regulation which it produced did not command universal support. Moreover, the recent demographic changes in Europe have added a new dimension to the problem. To date, relatively little attention has been paid to the choice of law implications of migration from non-Western States, in which religious or customary law governs the economic consequences of marriage and which typically have separate property systems which discriminate against women. The mass migration into Europe from such States over the past few years makes it imperative to consider the implications of the choice of law rules in relation to matrimonial property for migrants from non-Western States.

Accordingly, in the light of these developments, there is a need to revisit critically the issues involved and the different approaches to choice of law in relation to matrimonial property in the light of modern choice of law theory. This article meets this need by analysing the extent to which the various approaches best promote central choice of law objectives. In addition, insights are gleaned from the experience of the Israeli legal system in relation to couples migrating from Islamic States. The conclusions drawn from this analysis, which are significantly different from those which informed the EU Regulation, will be of value to law and policymakers throughout the world, when facing the challenge of making decisions pertaining to choice of law in relation to matrimonial property in the twenty-first century.

Liam W. Harris, Understanding public policy limits to the enforceability of forum selection clauses after Douez v Facebook, pp. 50-96

Abstract: This article explores the nature of public policy limits to the enforcement of forum selection clauses, recently considered by the Supreme Court of Canada in Douez v Facebook. The public policy factors relied on by the plurality of the Court, inequality of bargaining power and the quasi-constitutional nature of the right at issue, possess neither the doctrinal clarity nor the transnational focus necessary to guide the deployment of public policy in this context. Here, I argue for a public policy exception to the enforcement of forum selection clauses based on the doctrine of mandatory overriding rules. This approach would focus on whether a forum selection clause has the effect of avoiding the application of local norms intended to enjoy mandatory application in the transnational context. This conception of public policy would be a more coherent guide to the exercise of courts’ discretion to enforce forum selection clauses in cases like Douez.

Adeline Chong & Man YipSingapore as a centre for international commercial litigation: party autonomy to the fore, pp 97-129

Abstract: This article considers two recent developments in Singapore private international law: the establishment of the Singapore International Commercial Court and the enactment of the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements 2005 into Singapore law. These two developments are part of Singapore’s strategy to promote itself as an international dispute resolution hub and are underscored by giving an enhanced role to party autonomy. This article examines the impact of these two developments on the traditional rules of private international law and whether they achieve the stated aim of positioning Singapore as a major player in the international litigation arena.

Muyiwa Adigun, Enforcing ECOWAS judgments in Nigeria through the common law rule on the enforcement of foreign judgments, pp. 130-161

Abstract: The ECOWAS Court was established by the Revised ECOWAS Treaty. By virtue of that treaty, the Court has assumed an existence at the international plane and has delivered a number of judgments. This study therefore examines the enforcement of the judgments of the ECOWAS Court in Nigeria as a Member State. The study finds that Nigeria has not been enforcing the judgments of the Court like other Member States. The study further finds that there are five sources of international law namely: treaties, custom, general principles of law recognised by civilised nations, judicial decisions and the writings of the most qualified publicists and that while Nigerian law has addressed domestic effect of treaties and custom, that of other sources most notably the decisions of international tribunals has not been seriously addressed. The study therefore argues that the common law on the enforcement of foreign judgments can be successfully adapted to give domestic effect to the judgments of the ECOWAS Court as an international tribunal in Nigeria. The study therefore recommends that the Nigerian judiciary should take the gauntlet to make the judgments of the ECOWAS Court effective in Nigeria.

Justin Monsenepwo, Contribution of the Hague Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts to the codification of party autonomy under OHADA Law, pp. 162-185

Abstract: The Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (hereinafter referred to as OHADA) was created on 17 October 1993 to foster economic development in Africa by creating a uniform and secure legal framework for the conduct of business in Africa. In an effort to reform the law of contracts in its Member States, OHADA has prepared the Preliminary Draft of the Uniform Act on the Law of Obligations (hereinafter referred to as the Preliminary Draft). Several provisions of the Preliminary Draft set forth general principles concerning choice of law in international commercial contracts. Indeed, the Preliminary Draft encompasses innovative provisions on party autonomy in international contracts, such as the explicit recognition of the right of parties to choose the law applicable to their contracts and the inclusion of limited exceptions to party autonomy (overriding mandatory rules and public policy). Yet, it still needs to be improved in respect of various issues, including for instance the ability of parties to choose different laws to apply to distinct parts of their contract and the possibility for the parties to expressly include in their choice of law the private international law rules of the chosen law. This paper analyses the provisions of the Preliminary Draft in the light of the Hague Principles on Choice of Law in International Commercial Contracts (hereinafter referred to as the Hague Principles). More particularly, it explores how the Hague Principles can help refine the rules on party autonomy contained in the Preliminary Draft to enhance legal certainty and predictability in the OHADA region.

Jeanne Huang, Chinese private international law and online data protection, pp. 186-209

Abstract: This paper explores how Chinese private international law responds to online data protection from two aspects: jurisdiction and applicable law. Compared with foreign laws, Chinese private international law related to online data protection has two distinct features. Chinese law for personal jurisdiction is still highly territorial-based. The “target” factor and the interactive level of a website have no play in Chinese jurisprudence. Regarding applicable law, Chinese legislators focus more on the domestic compliance with data regulations rather than their extra-territorial application. Moreover, like foreign countries, China also resorts to Internet intermediaries to enhance enforcement of domestic law. These features should be understood in the Chinese contexts of high-level data localization and Internet censorship.

Giorgio Risso, Product liability and protection of EU consumers: is it time for a serious reassessment? pp 210 – 233 

Abstract: The European Union (EU) has not enacted a coherent and fully-fledged product liability regime. At the substantive level, the Product Liability Directive – adopted in 1985 – is the only piece of legislation harmonising the laws of the Member States. At the private international law level, the special choice-of-laws provision in the Rome II Regulation coexists with the general rules in the Brussels I-bis Regulation. Cross-border product liability cases are therefore subject to different pieces of legislation containing either “general” or “specific” provisions. In turn, such general and specific provisions do have their own rationales which, simplistically, can be inspired by “pro-consumer”, “pro-producer”, or more “balanced” considerations, or can be completely “indifferent” to consumer protection. This article examines the interactions between the Directive, the Rome II and the Brussels I-bis Regulations in cross-border product liability cases. The aim of this article is to assess whether the piecemeal regime existing at the EU level risks undermining the protection of EU consumers. The analysis demonstrates that the regime is quite effective in guaranteeing an adequate level of consumer protection, but reforms are needed, especially to address liability claims involving non-EU manufacturers or claims otherwise connected to third States, without requiring a complete overhaul of the EU product liability regime.

Guangjian Tu, The flowing tide of parties’ freedom in private international law: party autonomy in contractual choice of law in China, pp. 234-240 (Review Article)

 

JPIL Conference: Registration now open!

Conflictoflaws - dim, 06/09/2019 - 12:02

Building on the successful conferences held in Aberdeen (2005), Birmingham (2007), New York (2009), Milan (2011), Madrid (2013), Cambridge (2015) and Rio (2017) the Journal of Private International Law will be holding its 8th Conference at the University of Munich from 12 – 14 September 2019.

Following the call for papers the Editors of the Journal (Professor Jonathan Harris QC of King’s College, Londonand Professor Paul Beaumont FRSE of the University of Aberdeen) and the organizer of the conference (Professor Anatol Dutta, University of Munich) have selected from a great number of applications from all over the world a variety of papers covering all areas of private international law which will be presented in a mixture of plenary (Friday) and parallel panel sessions (Thursday afternoon and Saturday morning).

We ask all speakers and guests to register via this website.

We thank the publisher Routledge and the German Federal Chamber of Notaries  for their generous support.

The internet’s not written in pencil, it’s written in ink. Szpunar AG in Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook, re i.a. jurisdiction and removal of hate speech. (As well as confirming my reading of his Opinion in Google).

GAVC - ven, 06/07/2019 - 18:06

Case C-18/18 Eva Glawischnig-Piesczek v Facebook as I noted in my short first review of the case, revolves around Article 15 of the E-Commerce Directive. Does Article 15 prohibit the imposition on a hosting provider (Facebook, in this case) of an obligation to remove not only notified illegal content, but also identical and similar content, at a national or worldwide level?

Szpunar AG kicks off with a memorable Erica Albright quote from The Social Network:  The internet’s not written in pencil, [Mark], it’s written in ink’. 

His Opinion to a large degree concerns statutory interpretation on filtering content, which Daphne Keller has already reviewed succinctly here and which is not the focus of this blog. The jurisdictional issues are what interest me more: the territorial scope of any removal obligation.

Firstly, Szpunar AG matter of factly confirms my reading, against that of most others’, of his Opinion in C-505/17 Google: at 79:

‘in my Opinion in that case I did not exclude the possibility that there might be situations in which the interest of the Union requires the application of the provisions of that directive beyond the territory of the European Union.’

Injunctions (ordering removal) are necessarily based on substantive considerations of national law (in the absence of EU harmonisation of defamation law); which law applies is subject to national, residual conflicts rules (in the absence of EU harmonisation at the applicable law, level, too): at 78. Consequently, a Court’s finding of illegality (because of its defamatory nature) of information posted may well have been different had the case been heard by a court in another Member State. What is however harmonised at the EU level, is the jurisdiction for the civil and commercial damage following from defamation: see e-Date, in particular its centre of interests rule which leads to an all-encompassing, universal’ jurisdiction for the damages resulting from the defamation.

Separate from that is the consideration of the territorial extent of the removal obligation. Here, the AG kicks off his analysis at 88 ff by clearly laying out the limits of existing EU harmonisation: the GDPR and data protection Directive harmonise issues of personal data /privacy: not what claimant relies on. Directive 2000/31 does not regulate the territorial effects of injunctions addressed to information society service providers. Next, it is difficult, in the absence of regulation by the Union with respect to harm to private life and personality rights, to justify the territorial effects of an injunction by relying on the protection of fundamental rights guaranteed in Articles 1, 7 and 8 of the Charter: the scope of the Charter follows the scope of EU law and not vice versa. In the present case, as regards its substance, the applicant’s action is not based on EU law. Finally, Brussels Ia does not regulate the extra-EU effects of injunctions.

For the sake of completeness, the AG does offer at 94 ff ‘a few additional observations’ as regards the removal of information disseminated worldwide via a social network platform. At 96 he refers to the CJEU’s judgment in Bolagsupplysningen which might implicitly have acknowledged universal jurisdiction, to conclude at 100 (references omitted)

the court of a Member State may, in theory, adjudicate on the removal worldwide of information disseminated via the internet. However, owing to the differences between, on the one hand, national laws and, on the other, the protection of the private life and personality rights provided for in those laws, and in order to respect the widely recognised fundamental rights, such a court must, rather, adopt an approach of self-limitation. Therefore, in the interest of international comity…, that court should, as far as possible, limit the extraterritorial effects of its junctions concerning harm to private life and personality rights. The implementation of a removal obligation should not go beyond what is necessary to achieve the protection of the injured person. Thus, instead of removing the content, that court might, in an appropriate case, order that access to that information be disabled with the help of geo-blocking.

There are very sound and extensive references to scholarship in the footnotes to the Opinion, including papers on the public /private international law divide and the shifting nature of same (the Brussels Court of Appeal recently in the Facebook case justifiably found jurisdictional grounds in neither public nor private international law, to discipline Facebook Ireland and Facebook Inc for its datr-cookies placed on Belgian users of FB).

I find the AG’s Opinion convincing and complete even in its conciseness. One can analyse the jurisdictional issues until the comes come home. However, in reality reasons of personal indemnification may argue in specific circumstances for universal jurisdiction and ditto reach of injunctive relief. However these bump both into the substantial trade-off which needs to be made between different fundamental rights (interest in having freedom removed v freedom of information), and good old principles of comitas gentium aka comity. That is not unlike the US judicial approach in similar issues.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.8.2, Heading 2.2.8.2.5.

German Conference on Cross-Border Enforcement in the EU (“IC²BE”)

Conflictoflaws - ven, 06/07/2019 - 15:20

On 10–11 October 2019, the Albert-Ludwig-University of Freiburg (Germany) will host the final conference of the German branch in the framework of the research project “Informed Choices in Cross-Border Enforcement” (IC2BE). Funded by the Justice Program (2014-2020) of the European Commission, the project aims to assess the working in practice of the “second generation” of EU regulations on procedural law for cross-border cases, i.e. the European Enforcement Order, Order for Payment, Small Claims and the Account Preservation Order Regulations. As a result, a database of CJEU and national case law has been created which is available here. The project is carried out by a European consortium (the MPI Luxembourg and the universities of Antwerp, Complutense (Madrid), Milan, Rotterdam, and Wroclaw) and is coordinated by Prof. Jan von Hein, Freiburg. Confirmed speakers include Professors Eva Lein (Lausanne), Caroline Meller-Hannich (Halle), Christoph Althammer (Regensburg), Florian Eichel (Bern), Christian Heinze (Hanover), Haimo Schack (Kiel), and Michael Stürner (Konstanz). In addition, the conference will feature a panel discussion by distinguished practitioners, Prof. Dr. Andreas Baumert (Achern), Dr. David Einhaus (Freiburg), and Dr. Carl Friedrich Nordmeier (Frankfurt). The language of the conference will be German. Participation is free of charge (except for the dinner), but requires a registration. For further information about the program and the process of registration, please click here.

The CJEU in Weil: assessment of the scope of application of Brussels Ia at the A53 certificate stage; and a narrow reading of the matrimonial exception.

GAVC - jeu, 06/06/2019 - 16:04

The CJEU this morning held (without AG Opinion) in C-361/18 Ágnes Weil v Géza Gulácsi.

Overall context is that Brussels Ia does not apply to ‘the status or legal capacity of natural persons, rights in property arising out of a matrimonial relationship, wills and succession’.

Ms Weil and Mr Gulácsi were unregistered partners. Mr Gulácsi was ordered by Hungarian court order to pay Ms Weil approximately EUR 2 060, together with interest for late payment, by virtue of the settlement of rights in property arising out of their de facto (unregistered) non-martial partnership. Ms Weil later applied to the same court to have it issue the Article 53 certificate which would facilitate her enforcement in the UK (where Mr Gulácsi lives and has a regular income). Questions raised, were

‘(1)      Is Article 53 of Regulation … No 1215/2012 to be interpreted as meaning that, if requested by one of the parties, the court of the Member State that delivered the decision must issue the certificate relating to the decision automatically, without examining if [the case] falls within the scope of Regulation … No 1215/2012?

(2)      If the answer to the first question is in the negative, is Article 1(2)(a) of Regulation … No 1215/2012 to be interpreted as meaning that a repayment action between members of an unregistered non-marital [de facto] partnership falls within the scope of the rights in property arising out of a relationship deemed … to have comparable (legal) effects to marriage?’

The  Court answers the first question in the negative: at the recognition and enforcement stage, things must go very swift indeed. The mutual trust required of courts must be backed up by proper consideration of the Regulation by the courts of the Member State of initial adjudication: at 33:

‘the need to ensure the swift enforcement of judgments, while preserving the legal certainty on which the mutual trust in the administration of justice in the European Union is based, justifies, in particular in a situation such as that of the main proceedings — where the court which gave the judgment to be enforced did not adjudicate, when giving that judgment, on whether [Brussels I and Ia] was applicable — that the court hearing the application for the certificate ascertains, at that stage, whether the dispute falls within that regulation.’

It adds at 35 that

the enforcement procedure, under Regulation No 44/2001, precludes, like enforcement under Regulation No 1215/2012, any subsequent review on the part of a court of the Member State addressed of whether the action giving rise to the judgment for which enforcement is sought falls within the scope of Regulation No 44/2001, the grounds for challenging the declaration that a judgment is enforceable being exhaustively laid down by that regulation.

This I find interesting for unless I missed it, there has not yet been a CJEU decision holding this much and as I discuss on pp 191-192 of the Handbook, there is scholarly discussion on same.

With respect to the matrimonial property exception, the CJEU after of course emphasising the need for a restrictive interpretation of the exceptions, acknowledges that Brussels Ia has extended this but only to relationships deemed comparable to marriage (at 44). Unregistered partnerships do not qualify.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU Private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.1.2, Heading 2.2.16.1.2 .

Fellowship at the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Culture”

Conflictoflaws - mer, 06/05/2019 - 18:13

The Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Cultureinvites academics of excellent standing to apply for a fellowship or junior fellowship for a maximum of 12 months (for the research period from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2022) on the subject:

Law and Community

Subsequent to developing the “Law as Culture” paradigm in the first funding phase (2010-2016), the Center will now direct its attention to the interaction between law and other cultural spheres in the second funding phase (2016-2022). During the stated research period, the Center is dedicated to examining the relationship between Law and Community. Within this research area, the diversity of cultures of family law and societal forms globally will be examined. Research projects shall also be oriented towards one of the Center’s three traversal dimensions, namely “Cultures of Differentiation and Comparing Legal Cultures,” “Human Rights and Autonomy,” or “The Binding Force and the Emotive Foundations of the Law.”

The tensions described and analyzed as contradictions of normative orders in theories of legal pluralism can only be understood with view to the social communities hiding behind these with their respective religious, indigenous, local, and regional claims. In this context, the question of how these social communities are held together requires closer examination, as does their relationship to secondary, superordinate, and subordinate legal ties. Concretely speaking, ideas of superior or even universalist legal communities, such as the European Legal Community or a Human Rights Community, should be explored while bearing in mind the normative and emotionally affective boundaries of community building.

Shaped by social proximity and emotional entanglement, the family continues to be regarded as a central place where societal values are reproduced, goods are distributed, and mutual responsibility is assumed. The longstanding principle of family solidarity is reflected in numerous legal orders. At the same time, however, family law also mirrors changing family forms and family ideals. A wideranging transformation of society and its normative foundations manifests in the pluralization of family forms. It is precisely on the basis of that which constitutes the normative character of the family that constructions of “us” and “them” become clear. In cases involving foreign elements, for example, the law of the “other” is applied using private international family law; exceptions based on public policy nevertheless call for a “we.”

In addition to the comparison of family law cultures, the research area Law and Community seeks the comparison of (legal) cultures at the level of other forms of community and their connection to applicable law: Which social norm systems form traditional local neighborhoods, modern clan structures, or “post-traditional communities” in contemporary subcultures, and what is their relationship to state law? How are these particular claims to universal validity conveyed? To what extent is valid law accepted by them or pragmatically integrated, and do they attempt to enforce the ideas of norms beyond their own group boundaries?

The Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Culture” offers a creative research atmosphere for various disciplines in the cultural and legal sciences. Academics of excellent standing are invited to apply by July 15, 2019. Applications should include a résumé, project description (5-10 pages), and selected publications, as well as list the applicant’s availability during the research period. They should be submitted preferably by email (kaesling@uni-bonn.de) or, alternatively, by mail:

Directorate of the Käte Hamburger Center for Advanced Study “Law as Culture”
c/o Dr. Katharina Kaesling
Research Coordinator
Konrad-Zuse-Platz 1-3
53227 Bonn
Germany

Further information can be found here.

CeDe Group v KAN. Bobek AG on the intricate applicable law provisions of the Insolvency Regulation (here: concerning set-off).

GAVC - mar, 06/04/2019 - 08:08

Bobek AG opined end of May in C-198/18 CeDe Group v KAN. I am posting a touch late for well, readers will know I have not been fiddling my thumbs. The Opinion concerns the lex causae for set-off in accordance with the (2000) Insolvency Regulation – provisions for which have not materially changed in the current version of the EIR (Regulation 2015/848). At stake are Articles 4 cq 6 and 7 cq 9 in the two versions of the Insolvency Regulation.

The liquidator of PPUB Janson sp.j. (‘PPUB’), a Polish company the subject of insolvency proceedings in Poland, lodged before the Swedish courts an application against CeDe Group AB (‘CeDe’), a Swedish company, claiming payment for goods delivered under a pre-existing contract between PPUB and CeDe, which is governed by Swedish law. In the course of those proceedings, CeDe claimed a set-off in respect of a larger debt owed to it by PPUB. The liquidator had previously refused that set-off within the framework of the Polish insolvency proceedings. During the course of the procedure before the Swedish courts, PPUB’s liquidator assigned the claim against CeDe to another company, KAN sp. z o.o. (‘KAN’), which subsequently became insolvent. However, KAN’s liquidator refused to take over the claim at issue, with the result that KAN (in insolvency) is now party to the litigation

The Supreme Court, Sweden) doubts the law applicable to such a set-off claim. Before the referring court, KAN claimed that the set-off claim should be heard under Polish law, whereas CeDe submitted that that issue should be examined under Swedish law. Both of course reverse-engineered their arguments to support opposing views.

The Advocate General in trademark lucid style navigates the facts and issues (not helped by the little detail seemingly given by the referring court). Complication is of course that the general Gleichlauf rule of the EIR is repeatedly tempered by ad hoc regimes for specific claims or claimants. Like the Commission, Bobek AK focuses on the Regulation’s stated aim (recital 26 of the 2000 EIR; recital 70  in the 2015 EIR) of having the set-off regime fulfill its role as a guarantee for international commercial transactions: at 74: ‘adopting an approach focused on the concrete outcomes produced by the respective applicable laws in conflict in a given case, the test to be applied must zero in on the specific solution that would be arrived at by the law applicable to the main claim’.

An Opinion very much soaked in commercial reality.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 5, Heading 5.7.

Now Hiring: Assistant in Private International Law in Freiburg (Germany)

Conflictoflaws - lun, 06/03/2019 - 10:11

At the Institute for Comparative and Private International Law of the Albert-Ludwig-University Freiburg (Germany), a vacancy has to be filled at the chair for private law, private international law and comparative law (chairholder: Prof. Dr. Jan von Hein), from 1 October, 2019 with

a legal research assistant (salary scale E 13 TV-L, personnel quota 50%)

The assistant is supposed to support the organizational and educational work of the chairholder, to participate in research projects of the chair as well as to teach his or her own courses (students’ exercise). Applicants are offered the opportunity to obtain a doctorate.

Applicants are expected to be interested in the chair’s main areas of research. They should be fluent in German and possess an above-average German First State Examination (at least “vollbefriedigend”) or a foreign equivalent degree. In addition, a thorough knowledge of German civil law as well as conflict of laws, comparative law and/or international procedural law is a necessity. Severely handicapped persons will be preferred provided that their qualification is equal.

Please send your application (CV, certificates and, if available, further proofs of talent) as a single pdf file via e-mail to ipr3@jura.uni-freiburg.de no later than 15 July, 2019. Alternatively, the documents may be sent to Prof. Dr. Jan von Hein, Institut für ausländisches und internationales Privatrecht, Abt. III, Peterhof, Niemensstr. 10, D-79098 Freiburg (Germany). As the application documents will not be returned, applicants are kindly requested to submit only unauthenticated copies.

Call for papers with tight deadline. Macao Writers’ Workshop for Early-Career Environmental Law Scholars.

GAVC - lun, 06/03/2019 - 09:09

I shall be spending a few weeks as a distinguished (yes, me!) visiting scholar at University of Macau in September. As part of my commitments there I shall be joining

  • Professor Paulo Canelas de Castro (University of Macau)
  • Professor Qin Tianbao (Wuhan University)
  • Professor Ben Boer (Wuhan University)
  • Professor Alexander Zahar (Wuhan University)
  • Professor Benoit Mayer (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

in the committee for a workshop on the writing of academic articles in the environmental law area. That’s quite a committee if you ask me.

We shall be assisting around twelve early-career environmental law scholars to publish an original research article on environmental law in English in an international top-tier journal.

At this moment we are looking in particular for a number of scholars based outside PRC to join the excellent Chinese candidates. All info is here. Deadline is tight: initial short abstract and CV are due Friday next, 7 June.

Geert.

 

European Conference on Mediation in Cross-Border Succession Conflicts

Conflictoflaws - lun, 06/03/2019 - 08:49

The European Conference on Mediation in Cross-Border Succession Conflicts invites mediators, legal practitioners, researchers, policymakers and citizens who are interested in succession mediation and cross-border mediation. The EU-funded project FOMENTO (Fostering mediation in cross-border civil and succession matters) aims to contribute to foster a widespread use of mediation as a cost-effective solution to prevent and solve international disputes in civil and succession matters. The conference will take place in Leipzig (Germany) on 26 June 2019. It is a possibility for mediators and jurists to get in contact and exchange experience in the field of succession conflicts. It also provides a venue for giving and receiving constructive feedback on research in progress, networking and discussions for the advancement of mediation across Europe. The main topics of the conference include

  • mediation in cross-border succession cases,
  • cross-border mediation
  • co-mediation in a cross-border context
  • online mediation

For the full programme and registration, please click here.

Pax Jenard Moot Court Competition

Conflictoflaws - ven, 05/31/2019 - 07:41

The successful conclusion of the 7th edition PAX Moot Competition marked the 50th anniversary of EU Private International Law and was named after one of its “founding fathers”, Paul Jenard, who served as the Rapporteur of the 1968 Brussels Convention.

The PAX Competition is a specialized moot court competition focused on private international law issues. The PAX Competition was set up originally by Sciences Po (Paris) in 2012. Since 2018, the organising team includes private international law experts from different Universities and research institutions. This year, the University of Antwerp and the T.M.C. Asser Institute collaborated with Sciences Po in organising this moot court competition.

We are grateful for the support and the funding received from the European Commission, through the  JUDGTRUST project coordinated by the T.M.C. Asser Institute, and in particular thank our colleagues of the T.M.C Asser Institute for the excellent facilities provided for the moot.

On May 24 and 25, 2019, eleven teams from six States, including the Russian Federation and India, met in The Hague for the oral rounds of this competition. We would like to thank all participating teams for their commitment and excellent work on the moot! We congratulate the University of Antwerp as the winner of the 2019 Jenard Round of the Pax Competition and the University of Sorbonne for writing the winning memorials!

Registration for the 2020 is set to be open from November 2019 . We invite teams from all corners of the European Union and beyond to participate in the next edition of this Private International Law endeavour!

Property Regimes for International Couples: a Conference in Milan

Conflictoflaws - jeu, 05/30/2019 - 06:22

On Wednesday 12 June 2019, at 13.30, the Department of International, Legal, Historical and Political Studies of the University of Milan will host the conference “New Rules on Property Regimes for International Couples”.

Speakers include Ilaria Viarengo (University of Milan), Maria Vilar Badia (European Commission), Andrea Bonomi (Swiss Institute of Comparative Law), Cristina González Beilfuss (University of Barcelona), Janeen Carruthers (University of Glasgow), Paolo Pasqualis (Notary), Monica Velletti (Judge), Cinzia Calabrese (President of AIAF) and Pietro Franzina (University of Ferrara).

See here for registration, programme and further information.

BNP Paribas: Apparently competing jurisdiction clauses under Article 25 Brussels I Recast /Brussels Ia Regulation. Take-away: keep your contractual house in order.

GAVC - mer, 05/29/2019 - 08:08

[2019] EWCA Civ 768 BNP Paribas v Trattamento Rifiuti Metropolitani Spa engages the issue of apparently competing jurisdiction clauses under Article 25 Brussels Ia. The appeal against Knowles J’s findings at the High Court was dismissed.

The issue raised on the appeal is whether the judge was correct to conclude that the claims for declaratory relief sought in the Claim fall within an English jurisdiction clause  (EJC) contained in a swap transaction between the parties and not within an Italian jurisdiction clause (IJC) contained in a financing agreement (an ISDA Master Agreement) between them – further facts are best read in the judgment.

At 44 ff Hamblen LJ first considers two preliminary issues: (i) the relevance of Italian law and (ii) the relevant “dispute” or “disputes”. On (i), expert Italian opinion was considered however rejected essentially as being overkill: Where the applicable law of the contract is foreign law, questions of interpretation are governed by the applicable law. In such a case the role of the expert is not to give evidence as to what the contract means. The role is “to prove the rules of construction of the foreign law, and it is then for the court to interpret the contract in accordance with those rules” (authority cited: Lord Collins in Vizcaya Partners Ltd v Picord [2016] UKPC 5) and ‘The task of the English court is merely to inform itself of any relevant different principles of construction there might be in the foreign law and, armed with such information, look at both jurisdiction clauses and decide whether the English claim falls within the English clause. That should be a comparatively straightforward exercise.” (Longmore LJ in Savona). At 54: ‘The primary rule is Article 1362 of the Italian Civil Code, under which the literal meaning of the words must be considered. It is only if that meaning is not clear that one goes on to consider later Articles, although they may be used as a cross check.’ ‘[A]lthough the Italian jurisdiction clause was governed by Italian law, the judge was entitled to approach the task of interpreting the EJC and the IJC by reference to English law relating to the interpretation of such provisions, concentrating on the meaning of the words used in their relevant context’: at 55.

On the ‘relevant dispute’, at 56: ‘The interpretation of the scope of a jurisdiction clause falls to be considered at the time that jurisdiction agreement is made, at which time there will be no “dispute” unless, which is not this case, it is an ad hoc agreement relating to existing disputes.’ At 59: ‘Where proceedings are commenced in this country in reliance on an English jurisdiction clause and a jurisdictional challenge is raised, the issue of whether the clause may be so relied upon is to be answered by reference to the claim in relation to which those proceedings have been issued.’ At 61: ‘The answer to this question cannot change by reason of subsequent events, such as a defence raised or a subsequent set of proceedings, like the Italian Claim.’ (Follows reference to CJEU C-214/89 Powell Duffryn Plc v M Petereit).

Applied to the case at issue and having established that English law (of contractual interpretation and the ordinary meaning of the words) applies, Hamblen LJ summarises authority as follows (at 68; authority omitted)):

(1) Where the parties’ overall contractual arrangements contain two competing jurisdiction clauses, the starting point is that a jurisdiction clause in one contract was probably not intended to capture disputes more naturally seen as arising under a related contract.

(2) A broad, purposive and commercially-minded approach is to be followed.

(3) Where the jurisdiction clauses are part of a series of agreements they should be interpreted in the light of the transaction as a whole, taking into account the overall scheme of the agreements and reading sentences and phrases in the context of that overall scheme.

(4) It is recognised that sensible business people are unlikely to intend that similar claims should be the subject of inconsistent jurisdiction clauses.

(5) The starting presumption will therefore be that competing jurisdiction clauses are to be interpreted on the basis that each deals exclusively with its own subject matter and they are not overlapping, provided the language and surrounding circumstances so allow.

(6) The language and surrounding circumstances may, however, make it clear that a dispute falls within the ambit of both clauses. In that event the result may be that either clause can apply rather than one clause to the exclusion of the other.

At 69 ff this leads in casu to a finding of fairly clear distinct application in light of the clear contractual set-up between parties. At 77 this is supplemented by a straightforward finding of which relationship is relevant for which choice of court clause. Like the High Court, the Court of Appeal concluded that the two jurisdiction clauses governed different relationships and did not materially overlap.

At 112 Longmore LJ adds that the Court’s interpretation ‘accords with the objects of the Regulation of: (i) allowing the claimant easily to identify the court before which he may bring an action and the defendant reasonably to foresee the court before which he may be sued; and (ii) enabling the court seised to be able readily to decide whether it has jurisdiction, without having to consider the substance of the case.’

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.9, Heading 2.2.9.

China’s innovative Internet Courts and their use of blockchain backed evidence

Conflictoflaws - mar, 05/28/2019 - 19:26

Written by Sophie Hunter

Since 2017, the Supreme People’s Court of China (SPC) has established three internet courts in Hangzhou, Beijing and Guangzhou which are major hubs for e-commerce, the internet industry and the headquarters of giant internet companies like Alibaba and Baidu. With an internet penetration of 54% and approximately 800 million internet users, the introduction of such courts helps to reduce the rising number of online disputes between citizens in a time and cost efficient way thanks to the admissibility of blockchain backed online data as evidence. China’s leading role in internet litigation comes at no surprise since regular courts favor documentary evidence over live testimony and already so much is done online.

This post sheds light on this new model and how it has potential to influence other jurisdictions.

China’s political strategy towards innovation and internet

Like many other countries, China views the Internet as key to its future growth and development opportunities. The Chinese government maintains the world’s most sophisticated internet censorship apparatus called the Great Firewall. After the 2017 cybersecurity law, the level of internet freedom in the country declined as a result of strengthened repressive restrictions on online activities and onerous financial burdens on technology companies, independent media, and bloggers. President Xi Jinping announced plans at the 19th Communist Party Congress in October 2017 to transform China into a “cyber superpower”. China’s Internet Plus strategy, which is part of this initiative, encompasses innovations such as internet courts, in order to actively promote the healthy development of e-commerce, industrial networks, and Internet banking, as well as facilitate the growth of new industries and the expansion of its companies’ international Internet footprint. Although China has recently clamped down on cryptocurrencies, it hailed blockchain development in its five-year plan to 2021.

The new model of specialized courts for internet-related disputes or Internet Courts

According to the Provisions published by the SPC (Provisions on Several Issues Concerning the Trial of Cases by the International Courts) the Internet Courts focus on disputes involving: the online sale of goods and services, lending, copyright and neighboring rights ownership and infringement, domains, infringement on personal rights or property rights via the Internet, product liability claims, and Internet public interest litigation brought by prosecutors. The litigation process is conducted solely online, including the service of legal documents, the presentation of evidence, and the actual trial itself which, to comply with principles of trial in person and direct speech principle, rely on the online video system.

A major advantage of such courts is that it addresses the increasing workload and burden on the judiciary. The average duration of these online trials in Hangzhou in 2017/18 was 28 minutes, and the average processing period from filing to trial and conclusion was 38 days. However, the Hangzhou Internet Court has also been criticized for its lack of impartiality, since it is technically supported by Alibaba and its subsidiaries which are related to most disputes in the region. Other courts have not faced such criticism.

Blockchain mechanisms as a new method to authenticate evidence

Blockchain-related innovations are increasingly becoming relevant to legally authenticate evidence. Since a blockchain generates immutable, time-stamped data which can then be used as an auditable trail, it seems likely that the legal sphere will get heavily influenced in the near future by the security of the blockchain (which is set before any transactions or documentation takes place). China is ahead of the game in this respect. At the 2019 Forum on China Intellectual Property Protection, the president of the Beijing Internet Court (established in September 2018, and has since processed 14,904 cases) reportedly said that the court employs technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain to render judgement.

Since most of the evidence in the cases heard by Internet Courts is electronic data and is stored on the Internet, the SPC outlined in its Provisions that the Internet court can rely on evidence provided by the parties that can be authenticated by electronic signatures, time stamps, hash value verification, blockchain and other tamper-proof verification methods. Before the implementation of the Provisions, the Internet Court in Hangzhou for the first time in China admitted evidence that was authenticated by blockchain technology in an online copyright infringement case, which confirmed that data uploaded to a blockchain platform reflected its source, generation and path of delivery, and were therefore reliable evidence. Since, China’s Supreme Court ruled that evidence authenticated with blockchain technology is binding in legal disputes.

Internet courts rely on blockchain to deal with a range of cases such as disputes over liability for Internet tort and other types of Internet-related disputes in the areas of intellectual property rights and administrative litigation. An Internet judge in China’s Hangzhou province relied on blockchain to defend Intellectual Property rights because such technology is paramount to safeguard authors’ ownership over their work. In August 2018, the same court handed down a judgment on China’s first case of unfair competitionin big data products. As Wang Jiangqiao, a judge at the Internet Court, sums up “since blockchain guarantees that data can not be tampered, all digital footprints stored in the judicial blockchain system have legal effect.”

Can this model be exported to Western jurisdictions?

With the increasing reliance on internet for both private and business matters, the number of disputes is likely to increase in the near future. Internet Courts like the ones in China could provide a model to improve efficiency, significantly reduce costs and address infringements that may have been too cost-effective to pursue otherwise, while removing at the same time human interference as much as possible, which will make the information stored on blockchain more credible as noted by Qin Pengfei, a paralegal with Shanghai Dabang Law firm. Already the US State of Vermont has passed legislation to allow courts to use data on blockchain as evidence. In 2018, the U.K. Law Commission has announced its plans to review legal frameworks involving smart contracts so that it doesn’t lag behind as blockchain legal applications develop. However, no other country has yet actively followed suit with China’s model of Internet Courts. One reason copyright lawyer Liu Hongze argues is the fact that the acceptance of evidence stored on the blockchain may have little impact now on non-internet-related civil or criminal lawsuits. Indeed, blockchain data being legal evidence is relatively new and courts’ acceptance of it will depend on individual courts and situations. Nevertheless, what is certain is that China’s Internet Courts have a strong potential to launch the reliance of blockchain in the legal sphere, and western countries should watch such developments carefully not to fall behind. The recent backlash on Facebook with the judgment of the Bundeskartellamt demonstrates the need to respond to an ever increasing backlog of internet related disputes which interwind privacy, competition, data, cybersecurity and technology. Specialized courts such as Internet Courts might well be the answer.

Job Vacancy at Riga Graduate School of Law

Conflictoflaws - mar, 05/28/2019 - 08:00

Riga Graduate School of Law (RGSL) calls for applications for the following academic vacancy:

Docent in Private Law with additional specialization in Private International Law or International Commercial Law or Comparative Contract Law, for election term of 6 years.

Requirements for applicants:

  • Compliance with the requirements of the Regulations on Academic and Administrative Personnel Positions of Riga Graduate School of Law;
  • At least 3 years of academic work experience in English language;
  • Documented experience in research and scientific publications during the last 6 years;
  • Participation in scientific conferences and international projects during the last 6 years.

Main tasks:

  • Provision of study work in Bachelor and Master level programmes;
  • Involvement in research and at least five publications in recognized peer-reviewed academic outlets during the election term;
  • Participation in RGSL governance bodies;
  • Engagement in RGSL community service.

Monthly salary up to EUR 2.200,00 for full-time work-load.

Applicants should submit the following documents:

  • Application letter;
  • Professional curriculum vitae (in Europass format) in Latvian and English;
  • Copies of documents certifying the relevant education;
  • List of publications and/or significant achievements in the relevant field, from the last 6 years.

The Regulations on Academic and Administrative Personnel Positions of Riga Graduate School of Law can be found here.

Deadline for application is 17  June 2019. Applications should be sent by postal mail to Riga Graduate School of Law, Str?lnieku 4k-2, R?ga, LV 1010, Latvia or by email to vacancies@rgsl.edu.lv (Subject heading: “Academic personnel vacancies”).

For additional inquiries please contact Ms. Ieva Racenaja, Director of Riga Graduate School of Law, at ieva.racenaja@rgsl.edu.lv.

Riga Graduate School of Law informs that personal data included in the application shall be processed in order to conduct the selection of candidates (on the grounds of legitimate interests). The controller of such personal data processing is Riga Graduate School of Law.

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