Official Journal of the European Union

C 285/4

Judgment of the Court (Third Chamber) of 11 September 2008 (reference for a preliminary ruling from the Audiencia Provincial de Madrid, Spain) — CEPSA Estaciones de Servicio SA v LV Tobar e Hijos SL

(Case C-279/06) (1)

(Competition - Agreements, decisions and concerted practices - Agreements between undertakings - Article 81 EC - Regulation (EEC) No 1984/83 - Articles 10 to 13 - Regulation No 2790/1999 - Article 4(a) - Exclusive supply contract for petroleum products between a service-station operator and an oil company - Exemption)

(2008/C 285/05)

Language of the case: Spanish

Referring court

Audiencia Provincial de Madrid

Parties to the main proceedings

Applicant: CEPSA Estaciones de Servicio SA

Defendant: LV Tobar e Hijos SL


Reference for a preliminary ruling — Audiencia Provincial de Madrid — Interpretation of Article 81(1) EC and Articles 10 to 13 of Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1984/83 of 22 June 1983 on the application of Article 85(3) of the Treaty to categories of exclusive purchasing agreements (OJ 1983 L 173, p. 5) — Exclusive distribution contracts for fuels classified as agency or commission contracts but having certain specific features

Operative part of the judgment


An exclusive supply contract for motor-vehicle and other fuels, as well as lubricants and other related products, is capable of falling within the scope of Article 81(1) EC where the service station operator assumes, in a non-negligible proportion, one or more financial and commercial risks linked to the sale of those products to third parties and where that contract contains clauses capable of infringing competition, such as that relating to the fixing of the retail price. If the service-station operator does not assume such risks or assumes only a negligible share of them, only the obligations imposed on the operator in the context of services as an intermediary offered by the operator to the principal, such as the exclusivity and non-competition clauses, are capable of falling within the scope of that provision. It is for the referring court to ascertain, moreover, whether the contract concluded on 7 February 1996 between CEPSA Estaciones de Servicio SA and LV Tobar e Hijos SL has the effect of preventing, restricting or distorting competition within the meaning of Article 81 EC.


An exclusive supply contract, such as that referred to in the preceding paragraph of this operative part, is capable of benefiting from a block exemption provided for in Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1984/83 of 22 June 1983 on the application of Article [81](3) of the Treaty to categories of exclusive purchasing agreements, as amended by Commission Regulation (EC) No 1582/97 of 30 July 1997, if it complies with the maximum duration of 10 years referred to in Article 12(1)(c) of that regulation and if the supplier grants the service-station operator, in return for exclusivity, substantial commercial advantages which contribute to an improvement in distribution, facilitate the establishment or modernisation of the service station and lower the distribution costs. It is for the referring court to assess whether those conditions are satisfied in the case in the main proceedings.


Articles 10 to 13 of Regulation No 1984/83, as amended by Regulation No 1582/97, must be interpreted as precluding the application of the block exemption to an exclusive supply contract which provides for the fixing of the retail price by the supplier. It is for the referring court to ascertain whether, under national law, the contractual clause relating to that sale price can be amended by unilateral authorisation of the supplier, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, and whether a contract which is automatically void may become valid following an amendment of that contractual clause which has the effect of bringing that clause into line with Article 81(1) EC.


The automatic nullity provided for in Article 81(2) EC affects a contract in its entirety only if the clauses which are incompatible with Article 81(1) EC are not severable from the contract itself. Otherwise, the consequences of the nullity, in respect of all the other parts of the contract, are not a matter for Community law.

(1)  OJ C 212, 2.9.2006.