The European Court of First Instance has rejected an appeal against a Commission decision finding not to investigate an allegation of State aid. The complaint was brought by a Swedish tourism company that alleged that the Stockholm Visitors Board, which is owned by the city of Stockholm and responsible for promoting the region, was receiving incompatible State aid for it commercial activities. These commercial activities consisted, inter alia, of hotel reservation services and the sale of the Stockholm Card, which offers free admission to places of interest and facilities in Stockholm and free parking facilities.
Following an investigation into the matter, the Commission wrote a letter to the complainant stating that in its view the Stockholm Card and the hotel bookings were carried out in line with private market principles. The parking facility, even if it did constitute aid, would have been considered existing aid in any case as it was put in place prior to Sweden's accession to the European Union. For these reasons, the Commission found that there were insufficient grounds to continue the complaint.
The complainant requested a formal decision from the Commission on the compatibility of the aid. However, the Commission refused, saying that it only need provide an advisory opinion. The complainant appealed this refusal to provide a decision but the CFI rejected the claim as being inadmissible. It held that the Commission was not required to issue a decision as it was merely providing an informal view that the aid was compatible and this was only available where there were grounds to consider the aid was illegal. In addition, there was no mechanism to require a Commission decision on the compatibility of existing aid and, in any case, the matter could be dealt with by national courts. As the letter was not a formal "decision", the action was declared inadmissible on the grounds that a mere letter of information is not actionable