C-134/15 Lidl GmbH v Freistaat Sachsen [2016]

C-134/15 Lidl GmbH & Co KG v Freistaat Sachsen [2016] revolved around the pricing and labelling of poultry products in some branches operated by Lidl. The prices of poultry products were not directly displayed on the packaging or an attached label but were instead shown on labels attached to shelves. The government contended that this practice infringed Article 5(4)(b) of Regulation (EC) No 543/2008, which required specific labelling for poultry.

Lidl sought a declaration that Article 5(4)(b) was invalid under EU law, and the national court referred two key questions to the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Firstly, whether Article 5(4)(b) disproportionately infringed the freedom to conduct a business under Article 16 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Secondly, whether Article 5(4)(b) infringed the principle of non-discrimination by making a distinction between poultry and other meats under Article 40(2) of the Charter.

The ECJ ruled that Article 5(4)(b) is valid. Regarding the freedom to conduct business, the Court acknowledged that the labelling obligation could limit such freedom, but limitations are permissible if they are provided for by law, respect the essence of the freedom, and are proportionate to the objectives pursued. The Court emphasised the principle of proportionality, stating that measures should not exceed what is necessary to attain the legitimate objectives and should be the least onerous.

Concerning non-discrimination, the Court highlighted that the EU legislature has wide discretion in agricultural matters. Judicial review, in this context, is limited to ensuring there is no manifest error or misuse of powers, and discretion has not been manifestly exceeded. The Court concluded that a comparison of technical rules between dissimilar products cannot demonstrate discrimination.

In summary, the Court upheld the validity of Article 5(4)(b), finding it proportionate in limiting the freedom to conduct business and within the wide discretion granted to the EU legislature in agricultural matters.
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