C-117/76 & C-16/77 Ruckdeschel [1977]

C-117/76 & C-16/77 Ruckdeschel [1977]

C-117/76 and C-16/77 Albert Ruckdeschel & Co and Hansa-Lagerhaus Ströh & Co v Hauptzollamt Hamburg-St Annen and Diamalt AG v Hauptzollamt Itzehoe [1977] ECR 1753 played a significant role in establishing the general principle of equality in EU law. The central issue in this case revolved around a Council regulation that eliminated production refunds on maize used to produce quellmehl and gritz while maintaining them for maize used in the production of starch, a product directly competing with both quellmehl and gritz.

Producers contested the regulation, arguing that it contravened Article 40(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Article 40(2) mandates that the common organization of agricultural markets must prevent any discrimination between producers or consumers within the community.

The court, in its ruling, declared the regulation void. The judgment underscored the importance of the general principle of equality in EU law, considering Article 40(2) TFEU as a specific articulation of this fundamental principle. The principle itself dictates that similar situations should not be treated differently unless there exists an objective justification for differentiation.

Crucially, the court held that starch and quellmehl are comparable products, and thus, the differential treatment under the regulation was subject to scrutiny. The court concluded that the regulation unlawfully discriminated against producers of maize used to make quellmehl. Importantly, the judgment extended the reach of the prohibition of discrimination not only to producers of the exact same product but also to those involved in the production of similar products.

In summary, the case reaffirmed the overarching principle of equality in EU law, emphasising that any differentiation in treatment must be objectively justified. The ruling highlighted the applicability of this principle not only among producers of identical products but also among producers engaged in the production of comparable goods.
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