Brussels, 10 July 2014
Free movement of goods: Commission refers Czech Republic to Court over jewellery hallmarking rules
The European Commission has decided to refer the Czech Republic to the EU's Court of Justice due to its rules on the hallmarking of jewellery. The Czech Assay office requires that certain articles of jewellery imported from another EU country be stamped with an additional national hallmark, despite the fact that the articles in question were already lawfully hallmarked and marketed in the EU. The Commission considers that this requirement is in breach of EU Treaty rules on the free movement of goods within the EU and so has asked the Court to rule on this case.
In this particular case, the Czech Assay office refused to recognise hallmarks used by the Dutch Assay office on jewellery, claiming that those hallmarks do not allow them to distinguish between products originating in the EU and those products originating from countries outside the EU (such as China and Hong Kong). However, irrespective of the origin of jewellery, once it has been accepted by an EU country for free circulation it benefits from the principle of free movement in the EU. Therefore, the Commission considers that the current rules create a barrier to the free movement of goods between EU countries and so are contrary to Articles 34 and 36 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU).
The Commission has already requested the Czech Republic to change its laws to allow the free movement of jewellery by sending a reasoned opinion in May 2013. The Czech authorities disagree with the Commission's position, and thus the matter will now be referred to the Court.
Concerning the trade in products made of precious metals, the Court of Justice of the EU (the Court) has previously ruled that EU Member States cannot require a fresh hallmark to be affixed to products imported from another Member State in which they have already been lawfully marketed and hallmarked (in accordance with the legislation of that State), provided that the information on the hallmark is equivalent to that required by the Member State of importation and also intelligible to consumers of that State.