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HP Bulmer Ltd & Anor v. J. Bollinger SA & Ors [1974] EWCA Civ 14

Established the necessary criteria for the referral of a domestic case to the European courts.

Facts

The appellants, Bulmer, created a product called Babycham which they also described as ‘champagne perry’. The claimants, Bollinger, asserted that the defendants were not entitled to call the product champagne as it did not come from the Champagne region of France. European Community law provided regulations on the labelling of wine, which Bulmer’s actions technically violated and thus at first instance it was found that Bulmer ought cease describing its products as champagne. Displeased with this ruling, Bulmer appealed and asserted that the matter ought receive consideration by the European Court of Justice as it concerned a European law.

Issues

Whether the domestic Courts system of a Member State could reasonably not allow an appeal to the European Courts where the case concerned an EC law.

Held

The Court declined to refer the case to the European Court of Justice, viewing that it could be sufficiently adjudicated at the national level.  Further, the requirements for a case being worthy of referral to the European courts were determined to include: that the facts of the case ought already be settled, that the decision subsequently be made should be conclusive, that a case on the same matter had not already received treatment, and further that the legal question in matter not be act eclair, that is sufficiently clear that it can be applied without requesting the opinion of the European Courts. Thus, referrals should only be made where necessary, not where merely desirable or convenient. Notably, Lord Denning commented: ‘The Treaty is like an incoming tide. It flows into the estuaries and up the rivers. It cannot be held back’

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