Following a stand-off between the European Union and Spain regarding EU limits on the length and amount of television ads that can be run during certain periods, the European Commission says it is prepared to refer the matter to the Court of Justice.

Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding sent Spain a final warning to comply with EU rules, passed in 2006 and confirmed in December, that limit all TV advertising to 12 minutes per hour.

“All advertising and teleshopping broadcasts—including telepromotions, advertorials or however else they are described—must be taken as counting towards the 12 minutes per clock hour,” Reding said, according to a Reuters report.

Spain is infamous for chalking its television programming full of commercials and product placements. Three-hour movies can run as long as five hours including the commercials, and commercial breaks during primetime can last as long as 15 minutes, with as many as 30 ads in a row, one article recently noted.

The Commission monitored Spanish TV in 2005 and 2006, and found the 12-minute-per-hour limit was repeatedly violated. In July, the Commission warned Spain that it had failed to comply with its “Television without Frontiers” directive, which contained the ad restrictions. The Spanish government responded in October that it did not intend to change its programming requirements.

The Commission’s advertising restrictions were confirmed in an updated version of the “Television without Frontiers” directive, which came into force in December.

The dispute appears to have come to a head. Commissioner Reding urged Spanish authorities to take “urgent steps” to bring their advertising practices in line with EU rules, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. “If they don’t, I will ask the Commission to refer this to the Court of Justice,” she said.

The Court of Justice has the power to fine countries that do not comply with EU directives, and to force them to change their laws.

Spain seems to be coming around. “There is a directive that was approved in November 2006 … which revises advertising conditions and we have to adapt to it,” Spanish Secretary of State Francisco Ros recently was quoted as saying to journalists.

Why This Matters: The EU is demonstrating its intent to limit television ads. Spanish television likely will be forced to undergo a leaner diet of advertising.