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DMUR DMSTLSINS 27.

jn 2000 (1) (Tilskipun 93/13/EBE - rttmtir skilmlar neytendasamningum - varnaringskvi - heimild landsdmstls til a rannsaka a eigin frumkvi hvort slkt kvi s rttmtt) sameinuum mlum C-240/98 til C-244/98, BEINI skv. 177. gr. stofnsttmla Evrpubandalaganna (n 234. gr. EB) fr Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona, Spni, um forrskur mlunum sem dmstllinn hefur til meferar Ocano Grupo Editorial SA gegn Roco Murciano Quintero (C-240/98) og Salvat Editores SA gegn Jos M. Snchez Alcn Prades (C-241/98), Jos Luis Copano Badillo (C-242/98), Mohammed Berroane (C-243/98), Emilio Vias Feliu (C-244/98), um tlkun tilskipun rsins 93/13/EBE fr 5. aprl 1993 um rttmta skilmla neytendasamningum (Stjt. EB 1993 L 95, bls. 29). DMSTLLINN skipaur dmurunum G.C. Rodrguez Iglesias, forseta, L. Sevn (forseta deildarinnar), P.J.G. Kapteyn, C. Gulmann, J.-P. Puissochet, G. Hirsch, P. Jann (framsgumanni), H. Ragnemalm, M. Wathelet, V. Skouris og F. Macken, Aallgsgumaur: A. Saggio,

Dmritari: H.A. Rhl, aalfulltri, hefur me tilliti til skriflegra greinargera fr: Ocano Grupo Editorial SA og Salvat Editores SA, fyrirsvari er A. Estany Segalas, lgmaur, Barselna, Rkisstjrn Spnar, fyrirsvari sem umbosmaur er S. Ortz Vaamonde, rkislgmaur,

Rkisstjrn Frakklands, fyrirsvari sem umbosmenn eru K. Rispal-Bellanger, deildarstjri, lagaskrifstofu utanrkisruneytisins, og R. Loosli-Surrans, sendifulltri, lagaskrifstofu utanrkisruneytisins

Framkvmdastjrn Evrpubandalaganna, fyrirsvari sem umbosmenn eru J.L. Iglesias Buhigues, lgfringur, og M. Desantes Real, opinber starfsmaur sendur til starfa hj lgfrijnustu framkvmdastjrnarinnar, me tilliti til skrslu framsgumanns, eftir a hafa hltt munnlegan mlflutning Ocano Grupo Editorial SA, Salvat Editores SA, spnsku rkisstjrnarinnar, frnsku rkisstjrnarinnar og framkvmdastjrnarinnar, sem fram fr ann 26. oktber 1999, eftir a hafa hltt lit aallgsgumanns vi inghald ann 16. desember 1999, kvei upp svofelldan Dm Me rskuri fr 31. mars 1998 (C-240/98 og C-241/98) og 1. aprl 1998 (C-242/98, C243/98 og C244/98), sem barst Dmstlnum 8. jl 1998, hefur Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 (dmstll fyrsta dmstigi), Barselna, samrmi vi 177. gr. stofnsttmla Evrpubandalaganna (n 234. gr. EB), ska eftir forrskuri um litaefni sem ltur a tlkun tilskipun rsins 93/13/EBE fr 5. aprl 1993 um rttmta skilmla neytendasamningum (Stjt. EB 1993 L 95, bls. 29, tilskipunin). Spurningin var sett fram tveimur mlum, annars vegar mli Ocano Grupo Editorial SA gegn Murciana Quintero og hins vegar mli Salvat Editores SA gegn Snchez Alcn Prades, Copano Badillo, Berroane og Vias Feliu. Mli varar gjaldfallnar greislur samkvmt samningum um slu alfriritum me afborgunum, sem fyrirtkin og stefndu mlunum fyrir landsdmstlnum geru me sr. Lggjf Lggjf Bandalagsins 3. 4.

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Markmi tilskipunarinnar er skv. 1. mgr. 1. gr. a samrma lg og stjrnsslufyrirmli aildarrkjanna um rttmta skilmla samningum milli seljanda ea veitanda og neytanda. 2. gr. tilskipunarinnar er kvei um eftirfarandi: essari tilskipun er merking eftirfarandi hugtaka sem hr segir: ... b) neytandi: einstaklingur sem samningum, er essi tilskipun nr til, viskipti ru skyni en vegna starfs sns; c) seljandi ea veitandi: einstaklingur ea lgpersna sem samningum, er essi tilskipun nr til, viskipti vegna starfs sns, hvort sem a er opinbert starf ea ekki.

5. 1. mgr. 3. gr. tilskipunarinnar er kvei um eftirfarandi: Samningsskilmli sem hefur ekki veri sami um srstaklega telst rttmtur ef hann, rtt fyrir skilyri um ga tr, veldur umtalsveru jafnvgi rttinda og skyldna samningsaila samkvmt samningnum, neytanda til tjns. 6.

3. mgr. 3. gr. tilskipunarinnar er vsa til viauka tilskipunarinnar, en ar er skr, leibeinandi en ekki tmandi, yfir samningsskilmla sem teljast rttmtir. 1. li viaukans eru [s]amningsskilmlar sem hafa a markmii ea au hrif: ...

q) a tiloka ea hindra rtt neytanda til a skja ml fyrir dmstlum ea nta sr nnur rttarrri ... 7.

1. mgr. 6. gr. tilskipunarinnar er kvei um eftirfarandi: Aildarrkin skulu mla svo fyrir um a rttmtir skilmlar samningi seljanda ea veitanda vi neytanda su ekki samkvmt landslgum eirra bindandi fyrir neytandann og a samningurinn veri fram bindandi fyrir samningsaila ef hann getur haldi gildi snu a ru leyti n rttmtu skilmlanna.

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7. gr. tilskipunarinnar er kvei um eftirfarandi: 1. Aildarrkin skulu tryggja, gu neytenda og samkeppnisaila, a til su rttar og rangursrkar leiir til a hindra framhaldandi notkun rttmtra skilmla samningum seljenda ea veitenda vi neytendur. 2. Meal leianna samkvmt 1. mgr. skulu vera kvi sem einstaklingar ea samtk, me rttmta hagsmuni samkvmt landslgum til a vernda neytendur, geta ntt sr til agera landslgum samkvmt fyrir dmstlum ea ar til brum stjrnsslustofnunum til a f r v skori hvort skilmlar, sem eru tlair til almennrar notkunar, eru rttmtir, og geti annig beitt vieigandi og rangursrkum leium til a hindra framhaldandi notkun slkra skilmla.

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kvi 1. mgr. 10. gr. tilskipunarinnar kveur um a aildarrkin skuli samykkja nausynleg lg og stjrnsslufyrirmli til a fara a tilskipuninni eigi sar en 31. desember 1994. Innlend lggjf

10. spnskum lgum var neytendum fyrst veitt vernd gegn v a seljendur ea veitendur settu rttmta skilmla samninga me Ley General 26/1984, de 19 de julio, para la Defensa de los Consumidores y Usuarios (almenn lg nr. 26/1984 fr 19 jl 1984 um vernd neytenda og notenda, Boletn Oficial del Estado nr. 176, 24. jl 1984, lg nr. 26/1984). kvi c-liar 1. mgr. 10. gr. laga nr. 26/1984 kveur um a skilmlar, skilyri ea kvi sem gilda almennt tengslum vi slu ea kynningu vrum ea jnustu veri a vera samrmi vi krfuna um ga tr og vihalda elilegu jafnvgi rttinda og skyldna samningsailanna, sem llum tilvikum tilokar notkun rttmtra skilmla. Samkvmt 4. mgr. 10. gr. laga nr. 26/1984 eru rttmtir skilmlar, sem eru skilgreindir sem skilmlar sem hafa hfleg ea sanngjrn hrif neytandanum hag, ea sem valda jafnvgi milli rttinda og skuldbindinga samningsailanna neytandanum hag, sjlfkrafa gildir. Tilskipunin var a fullu tekin upp me Ley 7/1998, de 13 de abril, sobre Condiciones Generales de la Contratacin (lg nr. 7/1998 fr 13. aprl 1998 um almenna samningsskilmla, Boletn Oficial del Estado nr. 89, 14. aprl 1998, lg nr. 7/1998). 8. gr. laga nr. 7/1998 er kvei um a almennir skilmlar sem brjta gegn kvum laganna, samningsaila hag, og einkum rttmtir almennir skilmlar neytendasamningum skilningi laga nr. 26/1984, eru sjlfkrafa gildir Lg nr. 7/1998 eru til fyllingar lgum nr. 26/1984, einkum 1. mgr. 10. gr. a, sem tekur efnislega upp 1. mgr. 3. gr. tilskipunarinnar, og btir einnig vi vibtarkvi, sem meginatrium inniheldur skrna viauka tilskipunarinnar me samningsskilmlum sem teljast rttmtir, en teki er fram a kvi er lgmarkskvi. Samkvmt 27. mgr. essa vibtarkvis er samningsskilmli, sem tilgreinir a dmsvald skuli vera hj dmstl me lgsgu rum sta en ar sem neytandinn hefur lgheimili ea samningurinn er gerur, talinn rttmtur.

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Mlsmefer ( mlunum fyrir landsdmstlnum) og spurningin sem lg er fram til forrskurar 15.

tmabilinu 4. ma 1995 til 16. oktber 1996 geru stefndu mlunum fyrir landsdmstlnum, sem allir eru bsettir Spni, samning um kaup alfririti til einkanota me afborgunum. Stefnendur mlunum fyrir landsdmstlnum eru seljendur alfriritanna. samningunum var skilmli um a varnaring skyldi vera Barselna Spni, borg ar sem enginn stefndu mlunum fyrir landsdmstlnum er bsettur, en ar sem stefnendur mlanna eru me aalstarfsstvar snar. Kaupendur alfriritanna greiddu ekki gjaldfallnar upphir umsmdum tma og tmabilinu 25. jl til 19. desember 1997 hfuu seljendurnir ml (juicio de cognicin - styttri mlsmefer sem er aeins fyrir ml sem vara takmarkaar upphir) fyrir Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona, til a f rskur um a verjendunum mlunum fyrir landsdmstlnum yri gert skylt a greia gjaldfallnar upphir. Stefndu var ekki birt stefna ar sem landsdmstllinn taldi vafa leika v hvort hann hefi dmsvald essum tilteknu mlum. Landsdmstllinn bendir a Tribunal Supremo (hstirttur) hafi nokkrum tilvikum tali a varnaringskvi af eim toga sem greiningur mlanna ltur a su rttmt. Samkvmt dmstlnum sem leggur fram beinina gtir hins vegar samrmis rskurum landsdmstlanna um a hvort eim s heimilt, mlum sem vara neytendavernd, a rskura a eigin frumkvi hvort rttmtir skilmlar su gildir. Vi essar astur taldi Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona a tlkun tilskipunarinnar vri nausynleg til a hgt vri a rskura mlunum sem rekin eru fyrir dmstlnum. v var kvei a fresta mlsmefer og vsa eftirfarandi spurningu til Dmstls Evrpubandalaganna til forrskurar, en llum fimm beinum um forrskur er hn oru eins: Felur neytendavernd samkvmt tilskipun 93/13/EBE fr 5. aprl 1993 um rttmta skilmla neytendasamningum sr a landsdmstll geti rskura a eigin frumkvi hvort skilmli samnings s rttmtur, egar hann gerir forknnun v hvort leyfa skuli mefer krfu fyrir almennum dmstlum?

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Me rskuri forseta Dmstlsins ann 20. jl 1998 voru mlin fimm, C240/98 til C244/98, sameinu me tilliti til skriflegrar og munnlegrar mlsmeferar og dms. Fyrst skal geta ess a ef skilmla af eim toga sem greiningur mlsins fyrir landsdmstlnum ltur a er a finna samningi, sem neytandi og seljandi ea veitandi skilningi tilskipunarinnar gera me sr, og ekki hefur veri sami srstaklega um hann, uppfyllir hann au skilyri sem arf til a teljast rttmtur skilningi tilskipunarinnar. Skilmli af essum toga, sem hefur a markmi a ll deiluml varandi samninginn skuli lta dmsvaldi dmstls sem er me svisbundna lgsgu v svi ar sem seljandinn ea veitandinn er me aalstarfsst sna, skuldbindur neytandann til a skja varnaring hj dmstl sem gti veri langt fr lgheimili hans. etta getur gert honum erfiara um vik a skja dming. mlum sem vara takmarkaar fjrhir getur kostnaur neytandans sem hlst af v a skja dming veri letjandi og valdi v a hann falli fr v a nta sr lagaleg rri ea taka til varna. Slkur skilmli fellur v flokk skilmla sem hafa a markmi ea au hrif a tiloka ea hindra a neytandinn neyti rttar sns til a hefja mlskn, sem er flokkur sem um getur q-li 1. liar viauka tilskipunarinnar. Hins vegar gerir skilmlinn seljandanum ea veitandanum kleift a sinna mlaferlum varandi viskipti sn ea atvinnurekstur fyrir dmstl eirri ingh ar sem hann er me aalstarfsst sna. a auveldar seljandanum ea veitandanum a skipuleggja mlsskn og gerir a minna yngjandi a skja dming. Af v leiir a ef varnaringsskilmli, sem ekki hefur veri sami um srstaklega, er samningi milli neytanda og seljanda ea veitanda skilningi tilskipunarinnar og skilmlinn tilgreinir skylduvarnaring ingh me svisbundna lgsgu ar sem seljandinn ea veitandinn er me aalstarfsst sna, telst skilmlinn rttmtur skilningi 3. gr. tilskipunarinnar ef hann, rtt fyrir skilyri um ga tr, veldur umtalsveru jafnvgi rttinda og skyldna samningsaila samkvmt samningnum, neytanda til tjns.

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A v er varar spurninguna um a hvort dmstll, sem hefur til meferar ml varandi samning seljanda ea veitanda og neytanda, geti a eigin frumkvi rskura hvort skilmli samningsins s rttmtur skal ess geti a a fyrirkomulag verndar sem innleitt var me tilskipuninni byggir eirri hugmynd a neytandinn s veikri stu gagnvart seljanda ea veitanda, bi hva varar samningsstyrk og ekkingu. etta verur til ess a neytandinn samykkir skilmla, sem seljandinn ea veitandinn semur fyrirfram, n ess a geta haft hrif efni skilmlanna. Markmi 6. gr. tilskipunarinnar, ar sem ger er krafa um a aildarrkin mli fyrir um a rttmtir skilmlar su ekki bindandi fyrir neytandann, myndi ekki nst ef neytandinn yrfti sjlfur a vekja mls rttmtu eli slkra skilmla. deilumlum ar sem upphirnar eru oft takmarkaar getur lgmannskostnaur ori meiri en sem nemur upphinni sem deilan snst um, en a getur aftra neytandanum fr v a andmla beitingu rttmtra skilmla. tt v s annig htta mrgum aildarrkjanna a rttarfarsreglur heimili einstaklingum a verjast sjlfir slkum mlum, er raunveruleg htta v a neytandinn, einkum vegna vanekkingar lgum, vfengi ekki skilmlann, sem mlatilbnaurinn gegn honum snst um, eirri forsendu a hann s rttmtur. Af essu leiir a skilvirk neytendavernd nst aeins fram ef a er viurkennt a landsdmstllinn hafi heimild til a meta skilmla af essu tagi a eigin frumkvi. ar a auki, eins og aallgsgumaur bendir 24. li liti snu, byggir a fyrirkomulag verndar sem mlt er fyrir um tilskipuninni eirri skoun a jafnvgi milli neytandans og seljandans ea veitandans veri aeins leirtt me srtkum agerum, h raunverulegum ailum samningsins. a er ess vegna sem 7. gr. tilskipunarinnar, sem 1. mgr. gerir krfu um a aildarrkin innleii rttar og rangursrkar leiir til a hindra framhaldandi notkun rttmtra skilmla, tilgreinir 2. mgr. a meal leia skuli vera heimild til handa viurkenndum neytendasamtkum a grpa til agera til a f r v skori hvort skilmlar, sem eru tlair til almennrar notkunar, su rttmtir og, ef arf, koma v til leiar a eir su bannair tt eir hafi ekki veri notair tilteknum samningum. Eins og rkisstjrn Frakklands hefur bent er vart hugsanlegt a kerfi ar sem hfa urfi tiltekin hpml af fyrirbyggjandi toga til a stva beitingu rttmtra skilmla sem eru neytandanum til tjns, geti dmstll, sem hefur til meferar ml varandi tiltekinn samning me rttmtum skilmla, ekki viki til hliar vikomandi skilmla eingngu vegna ess a neytandinn hafi ekki vaki athygli a hann vri rttmtur. vert mti veri a telja a heimild dmstlsins til a rskura a eigin frumkvi hvort skilmli s rttmtur s lei sem s til ess fallin a n fram eirri niurstu sem 6. gr. tilskipunarinnar miar a, .e. a koma veg fyrir a einstakir neytendur su bundnir af rttmtum skilmlum, og einnig a stula a markmii 7. gr., ar sem slk rannskn dmstls geti haft varnaarhrif og stula a v a komi s veg fyrir rttmta skilmla samningum neytenda og seljenda ea veitenda. Af ofangreindu leiir a s vernd sem neytendum er veitt me tilskipuninni felur sr a landsdmstllinn getur a eigin frumkvi rskura hvort skilmli samnings sem hann hefur til meferar s rttmtur, egar hann gerir forknnun v hvort leyfa skuli mefer krfu fyrir landsdmstlum. A v er varar r astur ar sem tilskipun hefur ekki veri innleidd, skal bent a a er viurkennd dmaframkvmd (ml C-106/89 Marleasing gegn La Comercial Internacional de Alimentacin [1990] ECR I-4135, 8. gr., ml C-334/92 Wagner Miret gegn Fondo de Garanta Salarial [1993] ECR I-6911, 20. gr., og ml C-91/92 Faccini Dori gegn Recreb [1994] ECR I3325, 26. gr.) a vi beitingu landslgum, hvort sem au hafi veri samykkt fyrir ea eftir lgleiingu tilskipunarinnar, verur landsdmstllinn sem fali er a tlka au lg, eins og framast er kostur, a gera a me hlisjn af oralagi og tilgangi tilskipunarinnar, til ess a hgt s a n eim rangri sem stefnt er a me henni og vera annig samrmi vi riju mlsgrein 189. gr. stofnsttmla Evrpubandalaganna (n rija mlsgrein 249. gr. EB). ar sem dmstllinn sem leggur fram beinina hefur til meferar ml sem falla undir gildissvi tilskipunarinnar og sem eiga upptk sn atvikum sem gerast eftir a fresturinn, sem veittur er til lgleiingar tilskipuninni, er liinn, skal hann, vi beitingu kva landslaga sem tilgreind eru 10. og 11. gr. hr a framan og sem voru gildi eim tma sem atvikin ttu sr sta, tlka au, eins framast og kostur er, samrmi vi tilskipunina og annig a dmstllinn geti beitt eim a eigin frumkvi. Af framangreindu er ljst a landsdmstlnum er, vi beitingu kva landslaga sem samykkt eru fyrir ea eftir fyrrgreinda tilskipun, skylt a tlka au kvi, eins og framast er unnt, me hlisjn af oralagi og tilgangi tilskipunarinnar. Me krfunni um samrmisskringu

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vi tilskipunina er einkum ger s krafa a landsdmstll velji skringu sem heimilar honum a hafna a eigin frumkvi lgsgu sem honum er falin me rttmtum skilmla. Mlskostnaur 33.

Rkisstjrnir Spnar og Frakklands og framkvmdastjrn Evrpubandalaganna, sem skila hafa greinargerum til Dmstlsins, bera sinn mlskostna. ar sem um er ra ml sem, a v er varar ailana a aalmlinu, er hluti af mlarekstri fyrir landsdmstlnum kemur a hlut ess dmstls a kvara mlskostna. Me vsan til framangreindra forsendna kveur DMSTLLINN me vsan til spurninganna sem vsa var til forrskurar af Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona, me rskurum 31. mars og 1. aprl 1998, upp svohljandi rskur: 1. Neytendavernd samkvmt tilskipun 93/13/EBE fr 5. aprl 1993 um rttmta skilmla neytendasamningum felur sr a landsdmstll getur rskura a eigin frumkvi hvort skilmli samnings s rttmtur, egar hann gerir forknnun v hvort leyfa skuli mefer krfu fyrir landsdmstlum. 2. Landsdmstlnum er skylt, vi beitingu kva landslaga sem samykkt eru fyrir ea eftir fyrrgreinda tilskipun, a tlka au kvi, eins og framast er unnt, me hlisjn af oralagi og tilgangi tilskipunarinnar. Me krfunni um samrmisskringu vi tilskipunina er einkum ger s krafa a landsdmstll velji skringu sem heimilar honum a hafna a eigin frumkvi lgsgu sem honum er falin me rttmtum skilmla. Rodrguez Iglesias

Sevn Kapteyn

Gulmann Puissochet Hirsch Jann

Ragnemalm

Wathelet Skouris

Macken

Kvei upp heyranda hlji Lxemborg 27. jn 2000. R. Grass G.C. Rodrguez Iglesias dmritari forseti

1: ingmli er spnska.

JUDGMENT OF THE COURT 27 June 2000 (1)

(Directive 93/13/EEC - Unfair terms in consumer contracts - Jurisdiction clause - Power of the national court to examine of its own motion whether that clause is unfair) In Joined Cases C-240/98 to C-244/98, REFERENCE to the Court under Article 177 of the EC Treaty (now Article 234 EC) by the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona, Spain, for a preliminary ruling in the proceedings pending before that court between Ocano Grupo Editorial SA and

Rocio Murciano Quintero (C-240/98) and between Salvat Editores SA

and Jos M. Sanchez Alcn Prades (C-241/98), Jos Luis Copano Badillo (C-242/98), Mohammed Berroane (C-243/98), Emilio Vinas Feliu (C-244/98), on the interpretation of Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts (OJ 1993 L 95, p. 29), THE COURT, composed of: G.C. Rodriguez Iglesias, President, L. Sevn (President of Chamber), P.J.G. Kapteyn, C. Gulmann, J.-P. Puissochet, G. Hirsch, P. Jann (Rapporteur), H. Ragnemalm, M. Wathelet, V. Skouris and F. Macken, Judges, Advocate General: A. Saggio,

Registrar: H.A. Rhl, Principal Administrator, after considering the written observations submitted on behalf of: Ocano Grupo Editorial SA and Salvat Editores SA, by A. Estany Segalas, of the Barcelona Bar, the Spanish Government, by S. Ortz Vaamonde, Abogado del Estado, acting as Agent,

- the French Government, by K. Rispal-Bellanger, Head of Subdirectorate in the Legal Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and R. Loosli-Surrans, Charg de Mission in that Directorate, acting as Agents, - Commission of the European Communities, by J.L. Iglesias Buhigues, Legal Adviser, and M. Desantes Real, a national civil servant on secondment to the Commission's Legal Service, acting as Agents,

having regard to the Report for the Hearing, after hearing the oral observations of Ocano Grupo Editorial SA, Salvat Editores SA, the Spanish Government, the French Government and the Commission at the hearing on 26 October 1999, after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate Genera! at the sitting on 16 December 1999, gives the following

Judgment 1. By orders of 31 March 1998 (C-240/98 and C-241/98) and 1 April 1998 (C-242/98, C-243/98 and C244/98) received at the Court on 8 July 1998, the Juzgado de Primera Instancia (Court of First Instance) No 35, Barcelona, referred to the Court for a preliminary ruling under Article 177 of the EC Treaty (now Article 234 EC) a question on the interpretation of Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts (OJ 1993 L 95, p. 29, 'the Directive'). 2. The question was raised in two sets of proceedings, between (i) Ocano Grupo Editorial SA and Ms Murciana Quintero and (ii) Salvat Editores SA and Mr Sanchez Alcon Prades, Mr Copano Badillo, Mr Berroane and Mr Vinas Feliu. The proceedings concerned the payment of sums due under contracts concluded between the companies and the defendants in the main proceedings for the sale on deferred payment terms of encyclopaedias, The legal framework Community law 3. The purpose of the Directive is, according to Article 1(1), 'to approximate the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to unfair terms in contracts concluded between a seller or supplier and a consumer. 4. Article 2 of the Directive provides: 'For the purposes of this Directive: ... (b) "consumer" means any natural person who, in contracts covered by this Directive, is acting for purposes which are outside his trade, business or profession; (c) "seller or supplier" means any natural or legal person who, in contracts covered by this Directive, is acting for purposes relating to his trade, business or profession, whether publicly owned or privately owned. 5. Article 3(1) of the Directive provides: 'A contractual term which has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer. 6. Article 3(3) of the Directive refers to the Annex to the Directive which is to contain an 'indicative and non-exhaustive list of the terms which may be regarded as unfair. Paragraph 1 of the Annex refers to 'Terms which have the object or effect of:

(q) excluding or hindering the consumer's right to take legal action or exercise any other legal remedy ...

7. Under Article 6(1) of the Directive; 'Member States shall lay down that unfair terms used in a contract concluded with a consumer by a seller or supplier shall, as provided for under their national law, not be binding on the consumer and that the contract shall continue to bind the parties upon those terms if it is capable of continuing in existence without the unfair terms.' 8. Article 7 of the Directive provides: '1. Member States shall ensure that, in the interests of consumers and of competitors, adequate and effective means exist to prevent the continued use of unfair terms in contracts concluded with consumers by sellers or suppliers. 2. The means referred to in paragraph 1 shall include provisions whereby persons or organisations, having a legitimate interest under national law in protecting consumers, may take action according to the national law concerned before the courts or before competent administrative bodies for a decision as to whether contractual terms drawn up for general use are unfair, so that they can apply appropriate and effective means to prevent the continued use of such terms.' 9. Article 10(1) of the Directive provides that Member States are to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive no later than 31 December 1994. National law 10. Under Spanish law consumers were initially protected against unfair terms inserted in contracts by sellers and suppliers by the Ley General 26/1984, de 19 de julio, para la Defensa de los Consumidores y Usuarios (General Law No 26/1984 of 19 July 1984 for the Protection of Consumers and Users, Boletn Oficial del Estado No 176, of 24 July 1984, 'Law No 26/1984'). 11. Article 10(1)(c) of Law No 26/1984 provides that terms, conditions or clauses which apply generally in relation to the sale or promotion of products or services must be consistent with the requirement of good faith and must maintain a proper balance between the rights and obligations of the parties, which in any event precludes the use of unfair terms. By virtue of Article 10(4) of Law No 26/1984, unfair terms, which are defined as terms adversely affecting the consumer in a disproportionate or inequitable manner or causing an imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations to the detriment of the consumer, are automatically void, 12. The Directive was fully transposed by Ley 7/1998, de 13 de abril, sobre Condiciones Generales de la Contratacion (Law No 7/1998 of 13 April 1998 on General Contractual Conditions, Boletn Oficial del Estado No 89 of 14 April 1998, 'Law No 7/1998'). 13. Article 8 of Law No 7/1998 provides that general conditions which, to the detriment of a party to the contract, infringe the provisions of the Law and, in particular, unfair general conditions in consumer contracts within the meaning of Law No 26/1984 are automatically void. 14. Law No 7/1998 supplements Law No 26/1984 by adding, in particular, Article 10a, paragraph 1 of which substantially reproduces Article 3(1) of the Directive, and an additional provision which essentially sets out the list in the Annex to the Directive of terms which may be regarded as unfair, while indicating that the provision is minimal in character. Under paragraph 27 of the additional provision, a term of a contract expressly conferring jurisdiction on a court or tribunal other than that corresponding to the consumer's domicile or the place of performance of the contract is regarded as unfair.

The main proceedings and the question submitted for a preliminary ruling 15. Between 4 May 1995 and 16 October 1996, each of the defendants in the main proceedings, all of whom are resident in Spain, entered into a contract for the purchase by instalments of an

encyclopaedia for personal use. The plaintiffs in the main proceedings are the sellers of the encyclopaedias. 16. The contracts contained a term conferring jurisdiction on the courts in Barcelona (Spain), a city in which none of the defendants in the main proceedings is domiciled but where the plaintiffs in those proceedings have their principal place of business. 17. The purchasers of the encyclopaedias did not pay the sums due on the agreed dates, and, between 25 July and 19 December 1997, the sellers brought actions ('juicio de cognicin - a summary procedure available only for actions involving limited amounts of money) in the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona to obtain an order that the defendants in the main proceedings should pay the sums due. 18. Notice of the claims was not served on the defendants since the national court had doubts as to whether it had jurisdiction over the actions in question. The national court points out that on several occasions the Tribunal Supremo (Supreme Court) has held jurisdiction clauses of the kind at issue in these proceedings to be unfair, However, according to the court making the reference, the decisions of the national courts are inconsistent on the question of whether the court may, in proceedings concerning consumer protection, determine of its own motion whether an unfair term is void. 19. In those circumstances the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona took the view that an interpretation of the Directive was necessary to enable it to reach a decision in the proceedings before it. It decided to stay the proceedings and to refer to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling the following question, which is identically worded in the five orders for reference: 'Is the scope of the consumer protection provided by Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts such that the national court may determine of its own motion whether a term of a contract is unfair when making its preliminary assessment as to whether a claim should be allowed to proceed before the ordinary courts?' 20. By order of the President of the Court of Justice of 20 July 1998, the five cases C-240/98 to C-244/98 were joined for the purposes of the written and oral procedure and the judgment, 21. First, it should be noted that, where a term of the kind at issue in the main proceedings has been included in a contract concluded between a consumer and a seller or supplier within the meaning of the Directive without being individually negotiated, it satisfies all the criteria enabling it to be classed as unfair for the purposes of the Directive. 22. A term of this kind, the purpose of which is to confer jurisdiction in respect of all disputes arising under the contract on the court in the territorial jurisdiction of which the seller or supplier has his principal place of business, obliges the consumer to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of a court which may be a long way from his domicile. This may make it difficult for him to enter an appearance. In the case of disputes concerning limited amounts of money, the costs relating to the consumer's entering an appearance could be a deterrent and cause him to forgo any legal remedy or defence, Such a term thus falls within the category of terms which have the object or effect of excluding or hindering the consumer's right to take legal action, a category referred to in subparagraph (q) of paragraph 1 of the Annex to the Directive. 23. By contrast, the term enables the seller or supplier to deal with all the litigation relating to his trade, business or profession in the court in the jurisdiction of which he has his principal place of business. This makes it easier for the seller or supplier to arrange to enter an appearance and makes it less onerous for him to do so. 24. It follows that where a jurisdiction clause is included, without being individually negotiated, in a contract between a consumer and a seller or supplier within the meaning of the Directive and where it confers exclusive jurisdiction on a court in the territorial jurisdiction of which the seller or supplier has his principal place of business, it must be regarded as unfair within the meaning of Article 3 of the Directive in so far as it causes, contrary to the requirement of good faith, a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer. 25. As to the question of whether a court seised of a dispute concerning a contract between a seller or supplier and a consumer may determine of its own motion whether a term of the contract is unfair, it should be noted that the system of protection introduced by the Directive is

based on the idea that the consumer is in a weak position vis--vis the seller or supplier, as regards both his bargaining power and his level of knowledge. This leads to the consumer agreeing to terms drawn up in advance by the seller or supplier without being able to influence the content of the terms, 26. The aim of Article 6 of the Directive, which requires Member States to lay down that unfair terms are not binding on the consumer, would not be achieved if the consumer were himself obliged to raise the unfair nature of such terms. In disputes where the amounts involved are often limited, the lawyers' fees may be higher than the amount at stake, which may deter the consumer from contesting the application of an unfair term, While it is the case that, in a number of Member States, procedural rules enable individuals to defend themselves in such proceedings, there is a real risk that the consumer, particularly because of ignorance of the law, will not challenge the term pleaded against him on the grounds that it is unfair. It follows that effective protection of the consumer may be attained only if the national court acknowledges that it has power to evaluate terms of this kind of its own motion. 27. Moreover, as the Advocate General pointed out in paragraph 24 of his Opinion, the system of protection laid down by the Directive is based on the notion that the imbalance between the consumer and the seller or supplier may only be corrected by positive action unconnected with the actual parties to the contract. That is why Article 7 of the Directive, paragraph 1 of which requires Member States to implement adequate and effective means to prevent the continued use of unfair terms, specifies in paragraph 2 that those means are to include allowing authorised consumer associations to take action in order to obtain a decision as to whether contractual terms drawn up for general use are unfair and, if need be, to have them prohibited, even if they have not been used in specific contracts. 28. As the French Government has pointed out, it is hardly conceivable that, in a system requiring the implementation of specific group actions of a preventive nature intended to put a stop to unfair terms detrimental to consumers' interests, a court hearing a dispute on a specific contract containing an unfair term should not be able to set aside application of the relevant term solely because the consumer has not raised the fact that it is unfair. On the contrary, the court's power to determine of its own motion whether a term is unfair must be regarded as constituting a proper means both of achieving the result sought by Article 6 of the Directive, namely, preventing an individual consumer from being bound by an unfair term, and of contributing to achieving the aim of Article 7, since if the court undertakes such an examination, that may act as a deterrent and contribute to preventing unfair terms in contracts concluded between consumers and sellers or suppliers. 29. It follows from the above that the protection provided for consumers by the Directive entails the national court being able to determine of its own motion whether a term of a contract before it is unfair when making its preliminary assessment as to whether a claim should be allowed to proceed before the national courts. 30. As regards the position where a directive has not been transposed, it must be noted that it is settled case-law (Case C-106/89 Marleasing v La Comercial International de Alimentacin [1990] ECR I-4135, paragraph 8, Case C-334/92 Wagner Miret v Fondo de Garantla Salaral [1993] ECR I-6911, paragraph 20, and Case C-91/92 Faccini Dori v Recreb [1994] ECR I-3325, paragraph 26) that, when applying national law, whether adopted before or after the directive, the national court called upon to interpret that law must do so, as far as possible, in the light of the wording and purpose of the directive so as to achieve the result pursued by the directive and thereby comply with the third paragraph of Article 189 of the EC Treaty (now the third paragraph of Article 249 EC). 31. Since the court making the reference is seised of a case falling within the scope of the Directive and the facts giving rise to the case postdate the expiry of the period allowed for transposing the Directive, it therefore falls to that court, when it applies the provisions of national law outlined in paragraphs 10 and 11 above which were in force at the material time, to interpret them, as far as possible, in accordance with the Directive and in such a way that they are applied of the court's own motion. 32. It is apparent from the above considerations that the national court is obliged, when it applies national law provisions predating or postdating the said Directive, to interpret those provisions, so far as possible, in the light of the wording and purpose of the Directive. The requirement for an interpretation in conformity with the Directive requires the national court, in particular, to favour the interpretation that would allow it to decline of its own motion the jurisdiction conferred on it by virtue of an unfair term.

Costs 33. The costs incurred by the Spanish and French Governments and by the Commission, which have submitted observations to the Court, are not recoverable. Since these proceedings are, for the parties to the main proceedings, a step in the action pending before the national court, the decision on costs is a matter for that court. On those grounds, THE COURT, in answer to the questions referred to it by the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona by orders of 31 March and 1 April 1998, hereby rules: 1. The protection provided for consumers by Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts entails the national court being able to determine of its own motion whether a term of a contract before it is unfair when making its preliminary assessment as to whether a claim should be allowed to proceed before the national courts. 2. The national court is obliged, when it applies national law provisions predating or postdating the said Directive, to interpret those provisions, so far as possible, in the light of the wording and purpose of the Directive. The requirement for an interpretation in conformity with the Directive requires the national court, in particular, to favour the interpretation that would allow it to decline of its own motion the jurisdiction conferred on it by virtue of an unfair term.

Rodrguez Iglesias Sevn Kapteyn Gulmann Puissochet Hirsch Jann Ragnemalm Wathelet Skouris Macken Delivered in open court in Luxembourg on 27 June 2000. R. Grass G.C. Rodrguez Iglesias Registrar President

1: Language of the case: Spanish.

OCEANO GRUPO EDITORIAL AND SALVAT EDITORES

J U D G M E N T OF T H E C O U R T 27 June 2 0 0 0 *

In Joined Cases C-240/98 to C-244/98,

REFERENCE to the Court under Article 177 of the EC Treaty (now Article 234 EC) by the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona, Spain, for a preliminary ruling in the proceedings pending before that court between

Ocano Grupo Editorial SA

and

Roco Murciano Quintero (C-240/98) and between Salvat Editores SA and Jos M. Snchez Alcn Prades (C-241/98), Jos Luis Copano Badillo (C-242/98), Mohammed Berroane (C-243/98), Emilio Vias Feli (C-244/98),
* Language of the case: Spanish.

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JUDGMENT OF 27. 6. 2000 JOINED CASES C-240/98 TO C-244/98

on the interpretation of Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts (OJ 1 9 9 3 L 95, p. 29),

T H E COURT, composed of: G.C. Rodrguez Iglesias, President, L. Sevn (President of Chamber), P J . G . Kapteyn, C. Gulmann, J.-P. Puissochet, G. Hirsch, P. Jann (Rapporteur), H. Ragnemalm, M . Wathelet, V. Skouris and F. Macken, Judges,

Advocate General: A. Saggio, Registrar: H.A. Rhl, Principal Administrator,

after considering the written observations submitted on behalf of:

Ocano Grupo Editorial SA and Salvat Editores SA, by A. Estany Segalas, of the Barcelona Bar,

the Spanish Government, by S. Ortz Vaamonde, Abogado del Estado, acting as Agent,

the French Government, by K. Rispal-Bellanger, Head of Subdirectorate in the Legal Directorate of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and R. LoosliSurrans, Charg de Mission in that Directorate, acting as Agents, I - 4964

OCEANO GRUPO EDITORIAL AND SALVAT EDITORES

Commission of the European Communities, by J . L . Iglesias Buhigues, Legal Adviser, and M . Desantes Real, a national civil servant on secondment to the Commission's Legal Service, acting as Agents,

having regard to the Report for the Hearing,

after hearing the oral observations of Ocano Grupo Editorial SA, Salvat Editores SA, the Spanish Government, the French Government and the Commission at the hearing on 26 October 1 9 9 9 ,

after hearing the Opinion of the Advocate General at the sitting on 16 December 1999,

gives the following

Judgment

By orders of 31 March 1998 (C-240/98 and C-241/98) and 1 April 1998 (C-242/98, C-243/98 and C244/98) received at the Court on 8 July 1 9 9 8 , the Juzgado de Primera Instancia (Court of First Instance) No 3 5 , Barcelona, referred to the Court for a preliminary ruling under Article 177 of the EC Treaty (now I - 4965

JUDGMENT OF 27. 6. 2000 JOINED CASES C-240/98 TO C-244/98

Article 2 3 4 EC) a question on the interpretation of Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts (OJ 1993 L 95, p. 2 9 , 'the Directive').

The question was raised in two sets of proceedings, between (i) Ocano Grupo Editorial SA and Ms Murciana Quintero and (ii) Salvat Editores SA and Mr Snchez Alcn Prades, M r Copano Badillo, Mr Berroane and Mr Vias Feli. The proceedings concerned the payment of sums due under contracts concluded between the companies and the defendants in the main proceedings for the sale on deferred payment terms of encyclopaedias.

The legal framework

Community

law

The purpose of the Directive is, according to Article 1(1), 'to approximate the laws, regulations and administrative provisions of the Member States relating to unfair terms in contracts concluded between a seller or supplier and a consumer'. I - 4966

OCEANO GRUPO EDITORIAL AND SALVAT EDITORES

Article 2 of the Directive provides:

'For the purposes of this Directive:

(b) "consumer" means any natural person who, in contracts covered by this Directive, is acting for purposes which are outside his trade, business or profession;

(c) "seller or supplier" means any natural or legal person who, in contracts covered by this Directive, is acting for purposes relating to his trade, business or profession, whether publicly owned or privately owned.'

Article 3(1) of the Directive provides:

'A contractual term which has not been individually negotiated shall be regarded as unfair if, contrary to the requirement of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.' I - 4967

JUDGMENT OF 27. 6. 2000 JOINED CASES C-240/98 TO C-244/98

Article 3(3) of the Directive refers to the Annex to the Directive which is to contain an 'indicative and non-exhaustive list of the terms which may be regarded as unfair'. Paragraph 1 of the Annex refers to 'Terms which have the object or effect of:

(q) excluding or hindering the consumer's right to take legal action or exercise any other legal remedy...'

7 Under Article 6(1) of the Directive:

'Member States shall lay down that unfair terms used in a contract concluded with a consumer by a seller or supplier shall, as provided for under their national law, not be binding on the consumer and that the contract shall continue to bind the parties upon those terms if it is capable of continuing in existence without the unfair terms.'

Article 7 of the Directive provides:

' 1 . Member States shall ensure that, in the interests of consumers and of competitors, adequate and effective means exist to prevent the continued use of unfair terms in contracts concluded with consumers by sellers or suppliers. I - 4968

OCEANO GRUPO EDITORIAL AND SALVAT EDITORES

2. The means referred to in paragraph 1 shall include provisions whereby persons or organisations, having a legitimate interest under national law in protecting consumers, may take action according to the national law concerned before the courts or before competent administrative bodies for a decision as to whether contractual terms drawn up for general use are unfair, so that they can apply appropriate and effective means to prevent the continued use of such terms.'

Article 10(1) of the Directive provides that Member States are to bring into force the laws, regulations and administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive no later than 31 December 1994.

National

law

10

Under Spanish law consumers were initially protected against unfair terms inserted in contracts by sellers and suppliers by the Ley General 26/1984, de 19 de julio, para la Defensa de los Consumidores y Usuarios (General Law No 26/1984 of 19 July 1984 for the Protection of Consumers and Users, Boletn Oficial del Estado No 176, of 24 July 1984, Law No 26/1984').

11 Article 10(l)(c) of Law No 26/1984 provides that terms, conditions or clauses which apply generally in relation to the sale or promotion of products or services must be consistent with the requirement of good faith and must maintain a proper balance between the rights and obligations of the parties, which in any event precludes the use of unfair terms. By virtue of Article 10(4) of Law No 26/1984, unfair terms, which are defined as terms adversely affecting the I - 4969

JUDGMENT OF 27. 6. 2000 JOINED CASES C-240/98 TO C-244/98

consumer in a disproportionate or inequitable manner or causing an imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations to the detriment of the consumer, are automatically void.

12 The Directive was fully transposed by Ley 7/1998, de 13 de abril, sobre Condiciones Generales de la Contratacin (Law No 7/1998 of 13 April 1998 on General Contractual Conditions, Boletn Oficial del Estado No 89 of 14 April 1998, 'Law No 7/1998').

13 Article 8 of Law No 7/1998 provides that general conditions which, to the detriment of a party to the contract, infringe the provisions of the Law and, in particular, unfair general conditions in consumer contracts within the meaning of Law No 26/1984 are automatically void.

14 Law No 7/1998 supplements Law No 26/1984 by adding, in particular, Article 10a, paragraph 1 of which substantially reproduces Article 3(1) of the Directive, and an additional provision which essentially sets out the list in the Annex to the Directive of terms which may be regarded as unfair, while indicating that the provision is minimal in character. Under paragraph 27 of the additional provision, a term of a contract expressly conferring jurisdiction on a court or tribunal other than that corresponding to the consumer's domicile or the place of performance of the contract is regarded as unfair.

The main proceedings and the question submitted for a preliminary ruling

15 Between 4 May 1995 and 16 October 1996, each of the defendants in the main proceedings, all of whom are resident in Spain, entered into a contract for the I - 4970

OCEANO GRUPO EDITORIAL AND SALVAT EDITORES

purchase by instalments of an encyclopaedia for personal use. The plaintiffs in the main proceedings are the sellers of the encyclopaedias.

16

The contracts contained a term conferring jurisdiction on the courts in Barcelona (Spain), a city in which none of the defendants in the main proceedings is domiciled but where the plaintiffs in those proceedings have their principal place of business.

17 The purchasers of the encyclopaedias did not pay the sums due on the agreed dates, and, between 25 July and 19 December 1997, the sellers brought actions ('juicio de cognicin a summary procedure available only for actions involving limited amounts of money) in the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona to obtain an order that the defendants in the main proceedings should pay the sums due.
5

18 Notice of the claims was not served on the defendants since the national court had doubts as to whether it had jurisdiction over the actions in question. The national court points out that on several occasions the Tribunal Supremo (Supreme Court) has held jurisdiction clauses of the kind at issue in these proceedings to be unfair. However, according to the court making the reference, the decisions of the national courts are inconsistent on the question of whether the court may, in proceedings concerning consumer protection, determine of its own motion whether an unfair term is void.

19 In those circumstances the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona took the view that an interpretation of the Directive was necessary to enable it to I - 4971

JUDGMENT OF 27. 6. 2000 JOINED CASES C-240/98 TO C-244/98

reach a decision in the proceedings before it. It decided to stay the proceedings and to refer to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling the following question, which is identically worded in the five orders for reference:

'Is the scope of the consumer protection provided by Council Directive 93/13/ EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts such that the national court may determine of its own motion whether a term of a contract is unfair when making its preliminary assessment as to whether a claim should be allowed to proceed before the ordinary courts?'

20

By order of the President of the Court of Justice of 20 July 1998, the five cases C-240/98 to C-244/98 were joined for the purposes of the written and oral procedure and the judgment.

21 First, it should be noted that, where a term of the kind at issue in the main proceedings has been included in a contract concluded between a consumer and a seller or supplier within the meaning of the Directive without being individually negotiated, it satisfies all the criteria enabling it to be classed as unfair for the purposes of the Directive.

22 A term of this kind, the purpose of which is to confer jurisdiction in respect of all disputes arising under the contract on the court in the territorial jurisdiction of which the seller or supplier has his principal place of business, obliges the consumer to submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of a court which may be a long way from his domicile. This may make it difficult for him to enter an appearance. In the case of disputes concerning limited amounts of money, the costs relating to the consumer's entering an appearance could be a deterrent and cause him to forgo any legal remedy or defence. Such a term thus falls within the category of terms which have the object or effect of excluding or hindering the consumer's I - 4972

OCEANO GRUPO EDITORIAL AND SALVAT EDITORES

right to take legal action, a category referred to in subparagraph (q) of paragraph 1 of the Annex to the Directive.

23

By contrast, the term enables the seller or supplier to deal with all the litigation relating to his trade, business or profession in the court in the jurisdiction of which he has his principal place of business. This makes it easier for the seller or supplier to arrange to enter an appearance and makes it less onerous for him to do so.

24

It follows that where a jurisdiction clause is included, without being individually negotiated, in a contract between a consumer and a seller or supplier within the meaning of the Directive and where it confers exclusive jurisdiction on a court in the territorial jurisdiction of which the seller or supplier has his principal place of business, it must be regarded as unfair within the meaning of Article 3 of the Directive in so far as it causes, contrary to the requirement of good faith, a significant imbalance in the parties' rights and obligations arising under the contract, to the detriment of the consumer.

25

As to the question of whether a court seised of a dispute concerning a contract between a seller or supplier and a consumer may determine of its own motion whether a term of the contract is unfair, it should be noted that the system of protection introduced by the Directive is based on the idea that the consumer is in a weak position vis-a-vis the seller or supplier, as regards both his bargaining power and his level of knowledge. This leads to the consumer agreeing to terms drawn up in advance by the seller or supplier without being able to influence the content of the terms.

26 The aim of Article 6 of the Directive, which requires Member States to lay down that unfair terms are not binding on the consumer, would not be achieved if the consumer were himself obliged to raise the unfair nature of such terms. In disputes where the amounts involved are often limited, the lawyers' fees may be higher than the amount at stake, which may deter the consumer from contesting the application of an unfair term. While it is the case that, in a number of I - 4973

JUDGMENT OF 27. 6. 2000 JOINED CASES C-240/98 TO C-244/98

Member States, procedural rules enable individuals to defend themselves in such proceedings, there is a real risk that the consumer, particularly because of ignorance of the law, will not challenge the term pleaded against him on the grounds that it is unfair. It follows that effective protection of the consumer may be attained only if the national court acknowledges that it has power to evaluate terms of this kind of its own motion.

27

Moreover, as the Advocate General pointed out in paragraph 24 of his Opinion, the system of protection laid down by the Directive is based on the notion that the imbalance between the consumer and the seller or supplier may only be corrected by positive action unconnected with the actual parties to the contract. That is why Article 7 of the Directive, paragraph 1 of which requires Member States to implement adequate and effective means to prevent the continued use of unfair terms, specifies in paragraph 2 that those means are to include allowing authorised consumer associations to take action in order to obtain a decision as to whether contractual terms drawn up for general use are unfair and, if need be, to have them prohibited, even if they have not been used in specific contracts.

28 As the French Government has pointed out, it is hardly conceivable that, in a system requiring the implementation of specific group actions of a preventive nature intended to put a stop to unfair terms detrimental to consumers' interests, a court hearing a dispute on a specific contract containing an unfair term should not be able to set aside application of the relevant term solely because the consumer has not raised the fact that it is unfair. On the contrary, the court's power to determine of its own motion whether a term is unfair must be regarded as constituting a proper means both of achieving the result sought by Article 6 of the Directive, namely, preventing an individual consumer from being bound by an unfair term, and of contributing to achieving the aim of Article 7, since if the court undertakes such an examination, that may act as a deterrent and contribute to preventing unfair terms in contracts concluded between consumers and sellers or suppliers.

29 It follows from the above that the protection provided for consumers by the Directive entails the national court being able to determine of its own motion I - 4974

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whether a term of a contract before it is unfair when making its preliminary assessment as to whether a claim should be allowed to proceed before the national courts.

30

As regards the position where a directive has not been transposed, it must be noted that it is settled case-law (Case C-106/89 Marleasing v La Comercial Internacional de Alimentacin [1990] ECR I-4135, paragraph 8, Case C-334/92 Wagner Miret v Fondo de Garanta Salarial [1993] ECR I-6911, paragraph 20, and Case C-91/92 Faccini Dori v Recreb [1994] ECR 1-3325, paragraph 26) that, when applying national law, whether adopted before or after the directive, the national court called upon to interpret that law must do so, as far as possible, in the light of the wording and purpose of the directive so as to achieve the result pursued by the directive and thereby comply with the third paragraph of Article 189 of the EC Treaty (now the third paragraph of Article 249 EC).

31 Since the court making the reference is seised of a case falling within the scope of the Directive and the facts giving rise to the case postdate the expiry of the period allowed for transposing the Directive, it therefore falls to that court, when it applies the provisions of national law outlined in paragraphs 10 and 11 above which were in force at the material time, to interpret them, as far as possible, in accordance with the Directive and in such a way that they are applied of the court's own motion.

32

It is apparent from the above considerations that the national court is obliged, when it applies national law provisions predating or postdating the said Directive, to interpret those provisions, so far as possible, in the light of the wording and purpose of the Directive. The requirement for an interpretation in conformity with the Directive requires the national court, in particular, to favour the interpretation that would allow it to decline of its own motion the jurisdiction conferred on it by virtue of an unfair term. I - 4975

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Costs

33

The costs incurred by the Spanish and French Governments and by the Commission, which have submitted observations to the Court, are not recoverable. Since these proceedings are, for the parties to the main proceedings, a step in the action pending before the national court, the decision on costs is a matter for that court.

On those grounds,

THE COURT,

in answer to the questions referred to it by the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 35 de Barcelona by orders of 31 March and 1 April 1998, hereby rules:

1.

The protection provided for consumers by Council Directive 93/13/EEC of 5 April 1993 on unfair terms in consumer contracts entails the national court being able to determine of its own motion whether a term of a contract before it is unfair when making its preliminary assessment as to whether a claim should be allowed to proceed before the national courts.

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2.

The national court is obliged, when it applies national law provisions predating or postdating the said Directive, to interpret those provisions, so far as possible, in the light of the wording and purpose of the Directive. The requirement for an interpretation in conformity with the Directive requires the national court, in particular, to favour the interpretation that would allow it to decline of its own motion the jurisdiction conferred on it by virtue of an unfair term. Rodrguez Iglesias Gulmann Hirsch Wathelet Jann Skouris Sevn Kapteyn Puissochet Ragnemalm Macken

Delivered in open court in Luxembourg on 27 June 2000.

R. Grass
Registrar President

G.C. Rodriguez Iglesias

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SENTENCIA DEL TRIBUNAL DE JUSTICIA de 27 de junio de 2000 *

En los asuntos acumulados C-240/98 a C-244/98,

que tienen por objeto varias peticiones dirigidas al Tribunal de Justicia, con arreglo al artculo 177 del Tratado CE (actualmente artculo 234 CE), por el Juzgado de Primera Instancia n 35 de Barcelona (Espaa), destinada a obtener, en los litigios pendientes ante dicho rgano jurisdiccional entre

Ocano Grupo Editorial, S.A.,

Roco Murciano Quintero (asunto C-240/98) y entre Salvat Editores, S.A.,

Jos M. Snchez Alcn Prades (asunto C-241/98), Jos Luis Copano Badillo (asunto C-242/98), Mohammed Berroane (asunto C-243/98), Emilio Vias Feli (asunto C-244/98),
* Lengua de procedimiento: espaol.

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una decisin prejudicial sobre la interpretacin de la Directiva 93/13/CEE del Consejo, de 5 de abril de 1993, sobre las clusulas abusivas en los contratos celebrados con consumidores (DO L 95, p. 29),

EL TRIBUNAL DE JUSTICIA, integrado por el Sr. G.C. Rodrguez Iglesias, Presidente; los Sres. L. Sevn, Presidente de Sala; PJ.G. Kapteyn, C Gulmann, J.-P. Puissochet, G. Hirsch, R Jann (Ponente), H. Ragnemalm, M. Wathelet, V. Skouris, y la Sra. E Macken, Jueces;

Abogado General: Sr. A. Saggio; Secretario: Sr. H.A. Rhl, administrador principal;

consideradas las observaciones escritas presentadas:

en nombre de Ocano Grupo Editorial, S.A., y Salvat Editores, S.A., por el Sr. A, Estany Segalas, Abogado del Ilustre Colegio de Barcelona,

en nombre del Gobierno espaol, por el Sr. S. Ortiz Vaamonde, Abogado del Estado, en calidad de Agente;

en nombre del Gobierno francs, por las Sras. K. Rispal-Bellanger, sousdirecteur de la direction des affaires juridiques del ministre des Affaires trangres, y R. Loosli-Surrans, charg de mission de la misma Direccin, en calidad de Agentes; I - 4964

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en nombre de la Comisin de las Comunidades Europeas, por los Sres. J.L. Iglesias Buhigues, Consejero Jurdico, y M. Desantes Real, funcionario nacional adscrito al Servicio Jurdico, en calidad de Agentes,

habiendo considerado el informe para la vista;

odas las observaciones orales de Ocano Grupo Editorial, S.A., Salvat Editores, S.A., del Gobierno espaol, del Gobierno francs y de la Comisin, expuestas en la vista de 26 de octubre de 1999;

odas las conclusiones del Abogado General, presentadas en audiencia pblica el 16 de diciembre de 1999;

dicta la siguiente

Sentencia

Mediante autos de 31 de marzo de 1998 (asuntos C-240/98 y C-241/98) y de 1 de abril de 1998 (asuntos C-242/98, C-243/98 y C-244/98) recibidos en el Tribunal de Justicia el 8 de julio siguiente, el Juzgado de Primera Instancia n 35 de Barcelona plante, con arreglo al artculo 177 del Tratado CE (actualmente I - 4965

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artculo 234 CE), una cuestin prejudicial relativa a la interpretacin de la Directiva 93/13/CEE del Consejo, de 5 de abril de 1993, sobre las clusulas abusivas en los contratos celebrados con consumidores (DO L 95, p. 2 9 ; en lo sucesivo, Directiva ).

Dicha cuestin se suscit en el marco de varios litigios entre, por una parte, Ocano Grupo Editorial, S.A., y la Sra. Murciano Quintero y, por otra parte, entre Salvat Editores, S.A., y los Sres. Snchez Alcn Prades, Copano Badillo, Berroane y Vias Feli con motivo del pago de las cantidades adeudadas a raz de la ejecucin de contratos de venta a plazos celebrados entre dichas sociedades y los demandados en el asunto principal.

Marco jurdico

La normativa comunitaria

Segn su artculo 1, la Directiva tiene por objeto aproximar las disposiciones legales, reglamentarias y administrativas de los Estados miembros sobre las clusulas abusivas en los contratos celebrados entre profesionales y consumidores. I - 4966

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A tenor del artculo 2 de la Directiva:

A efectos de la presente Directiva se entender por:

[...]

b)

"consumidor": toda persona fsica que, en los contratos regulados por la presente Directiva, acte con un propsito ajeno a su actividad profesional;

c)

"profesional": toda persona fsica o jurdica que, en las transacciones reguladas por la presente Directiva, acte dentro del marco de su actividad profesional, ya sea pblica o privada.

El artculo 3, apartado 1, de la Directiva dispone:

Las clusulas contractuales que no se hayan negociado individualmente se considerarn abusivas si, pese a las exigencias de la buena fe, causan en detrimento del consumidor un desequilibrio importante entre los derechos y obligaciones de las partes que se derivan del contrato. I - 4967

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El artculo 3, apartado 3, de la Directiva hace referencia al Anexo de sta que contiene una lista indicativa y no exhaustiva de clusulas que pueden ser declaradas abusivas. El punto 1 de dicho Anexo menciona las Clusulas que tengan por objeto o por efecto:

[...]

q)

suprimir u obstaculizar el ejercicio de acciones judiciales o de recursos por parte del consumidor [...]

A tenor del artculo 6, apartado 1, de la Directiva:

Los Estados miembros establecern que no vincularn al consumidor, en las condiciones estipuladas por sus derechos nacionales, las clusulas abusivas que figuren en un contrato celebrado entre ste y un profesional y dispondrn que el contrato siga siendo obligatorio para las partes en los mismos trminos, si ste puede subsistir sin las clusulas abusivas.

A tenor del artculo 7, apartados 1 y 2, de la Directiva:

1 . Los Estados miembros velarn por que, en inters de los consumidores y de los competidores profesionales, existan medios adecuados y eficaces para que cese el uso de clusulas abusivas en los contratos celebrados entre profesionales y consumidores. I - 4968

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2. Los medios contemplados en el apartado 1 incluirn disposiciones que permitan a las personas y organizaciones que, con arreglo a la legislacin nacional, tengan un inters legtimo en la proteccin de los consumidores, acudir segn el derecho nacional a los rganos judiciales o administrativos competentes con el fin de que stos determinen si ciertas clusulas contractuales, redactadas con vistas a su utilizacin general, tienen carcter abusivo y apliquen los medios adecuados y eficaces para que cese la aplicacin de dichas clusulas.

Segn el artculo 10, apartado 1, de la Directiva, los Estados miembros deban adoptar las disposiciones legales, reglamentarias y administrativas necesarias para dar cumplimiento a lo establecido en la Directiva, a ms tardar, el 31 de diciembre de 1994.

La normativa nacional

10 En Derecho espaol, la proteccin de los consumidores contra las clusulas abusivas incluidas en los contratos por los profesionales ha sido garantizada en primer trmino a travs de la Ley General n 26/1984, de 19 de julio, para la Defensa de los Consumidores y Usuarios (BOE n 176, de 24 de julio de 1984; en lo sucesivo, Ley n 26/1984)

11 A tenor del artculo 10, apartado 1, letra c), de la Ley n 26/1984, las clusulas, condiciones o estipulaciones que se apliquen a la oferta, promocin o venta de productos o servicios debern cumplir con el requisito de buena fe y justo equilibrio entre los derechos y obligaciones de las partes, lo que en todo caso excluye la utilizacin de clusulas abusivas. En virtud del artculo 10, apartado 4, de dicha Ley, estas clusulas abusivas, que se definen como aquellas que perjudiquen de manera desproporcionada o no equitativa al consumidor, o I - 4969

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comporten en el contrato una posicin de desequilibrio entre los derechos y las obligaciones de las partes en perjuicio de los consumidores o usuarios, sern nulas de pleno derecho,

12

La adaptacin ntegra del Derecho nacional a lo dispuesto en la Directiva fue realizada mediante la Ley n 7/1998, de 13 de abril, sobre Condiciones Generales de la Contratacin (BOE n 89, de 14 de abril de 1998; en lo sucesivo, Ley n 7/1998),

13 El artculo 8 de la Ley n 7/1998 establece que sern nulas de pleno derecho las condiciones generales que contradigan en perjuicio del adherente lo dispuesto en esa Ley y, en particular, las condiciones generales que sean abusivas, cuando el contrato se haya celebrado con un consumidor en el sentido de la Ley n 26/1984.

14

La Ley n 7/1998 completa adems la Ley n 26/1984 aadindole, en particular, el artculo 10 bis cuyo apartado 1 reproduce sustancialmente el artculo 3, apartado 1, de la Directiva, as como una disposicin adicional, que recoge en esencia la lista de clusulas que pueden ser declaradas abusivas, aneja a la Directiva, precisando que sta no tiene carcter exhaustivo. Con arreglo al punto 27 de esta disposicin adicional, se considera abusiva la previsin en un contrato de pactos de sumisin expresa a un Juez o Tribunal distinto del que corresponda al domicilio del consumidor o al lugar del cumplimiento de la obligacin.

Los litigios principales y la cuestin prejudicial

15

Los demandados en los procedimientos principales, todos ellos domiciliados en Espaa, celebraron, cada uno por su parte, entre el 4 de mayo de 1995 y el 16 de I - 4970

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octubre de 1996, sendos contratos de compra a plazos de una enciclopedia, para fines personales. Las demandantes en los litigios principales son las empresas vendedoras de estas enciclopedias.

16 Los contratos contenan una clusula que atribua la competencia a los Tribunales de Barcelona, ciudad en la que no est domiciliado ninguno de los demandados, pero en donde se encuentra el domicilio social de las demandantes.

17

Dado que los compradores de las enciclopedias no haban pagado las cantidades adeudadas en los plazos convenidos, los vendedores sometieron los asuntos al Juzgado de Primera Instancia n 35 de Barcelona, en el marco de un juicio de cognicin, con el fin de que se condenara a los demandados del procedimiento principal al pago de dichas cantidades.

18 Estas demandas no les fueron notificadas, pues el rgano jurisdiccional remitente alberga dudas acerca de su competencia para conocer de estos litigios. Seala, en efecto, que, en diversas ocasiones, el Tribunal Supremo ha declarado abusivas las clusulas atributivas de competencia como las controvertidas en los litigios que le han sido sometidos. No obstante, afirma que las decisiones de los rganos jurisdiccionales nacionales son contradictorias en cuanto a la posibilidad de apreciar de oficio la nulidad de las clusulas abusivas en el marco de procedimientos relativos a la proteccin de los intereses de los consumidores.

19

En estas circunstancias, el Juzgado de Primera Instancia n 35 de Barcelona, al considerar necesaria una interpretacin de la Directiva para pronunciarse sobre
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litigios que le haban sido sometidos, decidi suspender el procedimiento y plantear al Tribunal de Justicia la siguiente cuestin prejudicial, formulada en trminos idnticos en los cinco autos de remisin:

El mbito de proteccin al consumidor de la Directiva 93/13/CEE del Consejo, sobre las clusulas abusivas en los contratos celebrados con consumidores permite al Juez nacional apreciar de oficio el carcter abusivo de una de las clusulas al realizar la valoracin previa a la admisin a trmite de una demanda ante los Juzgados ordinarios?

20 Mediante auto del Presidente del Tribunal de Justicia de 20 de julio de 1998, los cinco asuntos C-240/98 a C-244/98 se acumularon a efectos del procedimiento escrito y oral y de la sentencia.

21

Con carcter preliminar, es preciso sealar que una clusula como la controvertida en los litigios principales rene todos los requisitos para poder ser calificada como abusiva a la luz de la Directiva, puesto que ha sido incluida en un contrato celebrado entre un consumidor y un profesional sin que haya sido objeto de una negociacin individual en el sentido de dicha disposicin.

22

Una clusula de esta naturaleza, cuyo objeto consiste en atribuir la competencia, en todos los litigios que tengan su origen en el contrato, a un rgano jurisdiccional en cuyo territorio se halla el domicilio del profesional, impone al consumidor la obligacin de someterse a la competencia exclusiva de un Tribunal que puede estar lejos de su domicilio, lo que puede hacer ms dificultosa su comparecencia. En los casos de litigios de escasa cuanta, los gastos correspondientes a la comparecencia del consumidor podran resultar disuasorios y dar lugar a que ste renuncie a interponer un recurso judicial y a defenderse. Una clusula de esta ndole queda as comprendida en la categora de aquellas que tienen por objeto o por efecto suprimir u obstaculizar el ejercicio de acciones
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judiciales o de recursos por parte del consumidor, a que se refiere el punto 1, letra q) del Anexo de la Directiva.

23

En cambio, esta clusula permite al profesional agrupar todos los procedimientos contenciosos correspondientes a su actividad profesional en el Tribunal en cuyo territorio se encuentra su domicilio, lo que facilita la organizacin de su comparecencia, al mismo tiempo que hace que sta sea menos gravosa.

24 De ello se deduce que una clusula atributiva de competencia que sea incluida sin que haya sido objeto de una negociacin individual en un contrato celebrado entre un consumidor y un profesional y que confiere competencia exclusiva a un Tribunal en cuyo territorio se encuentra el domicilio del profesional, debe considerarse abusiva a los efectos del artculo 3 de la Directiva, en la medida en que, a pesar de la exigencia de buena fe, crea, en perjuicio del consumidor, un desequilibrio importante entre los derechos y las obligaciones de las partes que se derivan del contrato.

25 En cuanto a la cuestin de si un Tribunal, al que se haya sometido un litigio relativo a un contrato celebrado entre un profesional y un consumidor, puede apreciar de oficio el carcter abusivo de una clusula de dicho contrato, es preciso recordar que el sistema de proteccin establecido por la Directiva se basa en la idea de que el consumidor se halla en situacin de inferioridad respecto al profesional, en lo referido tanto a la capacidad de negociacin como al nivel de informacin, situacin que le lleva a adherirse a las condiciones redactadas de antemano por el profesional sin poder influir en el contenido de stas.

26 El objetivo perseguido por el artculo 6 de la Directiva, que obliga a los Estados miembros a prever que las clusulas abusivas no vinculen a los consumidores, no podra alcanzarse si stos tuvieran que hacer frente a la obligacin de plantear por s mismos el carcter abusivo de dichas clusulas. En litigios cuya cuanta es a menudo escasa, los honorarios del abogado pueden resultar superiores a los intereses en juego, lo cual puede disuadir al consumidor de defenderse ante la aplicacin de una clusula abusiva. Si bien es cierto que, en algunos Estados miembros, las reglas de procedimiento permiten a los particulares defenderse a s
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mismos en tales litigios, existe un riesgo no desdeable de que, debido, entre otras cosas, a la ignorancia, el consumidor no invoque el carcter abusivo de la clusula que se esgrime en su contra. De ello se deduce que slo podr alcanzarse una proteccin efectiva del consumidor si el Juez nacional est facultado para apreciar de oficio dicha clusula.

27

Por otra parte, como ha observado el Abogado General en el punto 24 de sus conclusiones, el sistema de tutela instaurado por la Directiva se basa en la idea de que la situacin de desequilibrio entre el consumidor y el profesional slo puede compensarse mediante una intervencin positiva, ajena a las partes del contrato. Por tal razn, el artculo 7 de la Directiva, que en su apartado 1 exige a los Estados miembros velar por que existan medios adecuados y eficaces para que cese el uso de clusulas abusivas en los contratos celebrados entre profesionales y consumidores, precisa, en su apartado 2, que estos medios deben permitir a las organizaciones de consumidores reconocidas acudir a los rganos judiciales competentes con el fin de que stos diluciden si ciertas clusulas contractuales, redactadas con vistas a su utilizacin general, tienen carcter abusivo y lograr, en su caso, que cese su aplicacin, aun cuando no hayan sido utilizadas en contratos determinados.

28 Como ha sealado el Gobierno francs, cuesta comprender que, en un sistema que exige la existencia, con carcter preventivo, de acciones colectivas especficas con el fin de poner trmino a los abusos perjudiciales a los intereses de los consumidores, el Juez que conozca de un litigio relativo a un determinado contrato, en el que se estipule una clusula abusiva, no pueda impedir la aplicacin de esta clusula por la mera razn de que el consumidor no haya planteado su carcter abusivo. Por el contrario, es preciso considerar que la facultad del Juez para examinar de oficio el carcter abusivo de una clusula constituye un medio idneo tanto para alcanzar el resultado sealado por el artculo 6 de la Directiva impedir que el consumidor individual quede vinculado por una clusula abusiva, como para ayudar a que se logre el objetivo contemplado en su artculo 7, ya que dicho examen puede ejercer un efecto disuasorio que contribuya a poner fin a la utilizacin de clusulas abusivas en los contratos celebrados por un profesional con los consumidores. 29 De cuanto antecede se desprende que la proteccin que la Directiva otorga a los consumidores implica que el Juez nacional pueda apreciar de oficio el carcter
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abusivo de una clusula del contrato que le haya sido sometido cuando examine la admisibilidad de una demanda presentada ante los rganos jurisdiccionales nacionales.

30

Ante una situacin en la que no se haya adaptado el Derecho nacional a una Directiva, es preciso recordar que, con arreglo a una jurisprudencia reiterada sentencias de 13 de noviembre de 1990, Marleasing, C-106/89, Rec. p. 1-4135, apartado 8; de 16 de diciembre de 1993, Wagner Miret, C-334/92, Rec. p. 1-6911, apartado 2 0 , y de 14 de julio de 1994, Faccini Dori, C-91/92, Rec. p. 1-3325, apartado 26), al aplicar el Derecho nacional, ya sean disposiciones anteriores o posteriores a la Directiva, el rgano jurisdiccional nacional que debe interpretarlo est obligado a hacer todo lo posible, a la luz del tenor literal y de la finalidad de la Directiva, para, al efectuar dicha interpretacin, alcanzar el resultado a que se refiere la Directiva y de esa forma atenerse al artculo 189, prrafo tercero, del Tratado CE (actualmente artculo 249 CE, prrafo tercero).

31 As pues, el Juez remitente que conoce de un litigio comprendido en el mbito de aplicacin de una Directiva y que tiene su origen en hechos posteriores a la expiracin del plazo de adaptacin del Derecho nacional a sta, al aplicar las disposiciones de Derecho nacional vigentes en la fecha de los hechos, tales como las mencionadas en los apartados 10 y 11 de la presente sentencia, debe interpretarlas, en toda la medida de lo posible, de conformidad con la Directiva, de tal manera que puedan ser aplicadas de oficio.

32

De las consideraciones que anteceden se desprende que, al aplicar disposiciones de Derecho nacional anteriores o posteriores a la mencionada Directiva, el rgano jurisdiccional nacional debe interpretarlas, en toda la medida de lo posible, a la luz del tenor literal y de la finalidad de dicha Directiva. La exigencia de interpretacin conforme requiere en particular que el Juez nacional d preferencia a aquella que le permita negarse de oficio a asumir una competencia que le haya sido atribuida en virtud de una clusula abusiva.
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Costas

33

Los gastos efectuados por los Gobiernos espaol y francs, as como por la Comisin de las Comunidades Europeas, que han presentado observaciones ante este Tribunal de Jtisticia, no pueden ser objeto de reembolso. Dado que el procedimiento tiene, para las partes del litigio principal, el carcter de un incidente promovido ante el rgano jurisdiccional nacional, corresponde a ste resolver sobre las costas.

En virtud de todo lo expuesto,

EL TRIBUNAL DE JUSTICIA,

pronuncindose sobre la cuestin planteada por el Juzgado de Primera Instancia n 35 de Barcelona mediante autos de 31 de marzo y de 1 de abril de 1998, declara:

1)

La proteccin que la Directiva 9 3 / 1 3 / C E E del Consejo, de 5 de abril de 1993, sobre las clusulas abusivas en los contratos celebrados con consumidores, otorga a stos implica que el Juez nacional pueda apreciar de oficio el carcter abusivo de una clusula del contrato que le haya sido sometido cuando examine la admisibilidad de una demanda presentada ante los rganos jurisdiccionales nacionales.

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2)

Al aplicar las disposiciones de Derecho nacional anteriores o posteriores a la mencionada Directiva, el rgano jurisdiccional nacional debe interpretarlas, en toda la medida de lo posible, a la luz del tenor literal y de la finalidad de dicha Directiva. La exigencia de interpretacin conforme requiere en particular que el Juez nacional d preferencia a aquella que le permita negarse de oficio a asumir una competencia que le haya sido atribuida en virtud de una clusula abusiva. Rodrguez Iglesias Gulmann Hirsch Wathelet Jann Skouris Sevn Kapteyn Puissochet Ragnemalm Macken

Pronunciada en audiencia pblica en Luxemburgo, a 27 de junio de 2000.

El Secretario

El Presidente

R. Grass G.C. Rodrguez Iglesias

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