On 7 December, the Court of Justice of the EU adopted a decision on rules of jurisdiction that apply to consumer contracts, in relation to services offered on the Internet. One of the factors is use of particular domain names. The issues were raised by the Austrian Supreme Court in connection with two cases before it in which a consumer either sought to sue a German merchant or an Austrian merchant sought to sue a German consumer, both through Austrian courts. The Court of Justice held that “Mere use of a website by the trader does not in itself trigger application of the rules of jurisdiction for the protection of consumers in other Member States.” Nevertheless, the Court also referred to the impact of having a particular domain name, saying:
“Nevertheless, other less patent items of evidence, possibly in combination with one another, are also capable of demonstrating the existence of an activity ‘directed to’ the Member State of the consumer’s domicile. These include: the international nature of the activity at issue, such as certain tourist activities; mention of telephone numbers with the international code; use of a top-level domain name other than that of the Member State in which the trader is established, for example ‘.de’, or use of neutral top-level domain names such as ‘.com.’ or ‘.eu’….”
The standard that applies is that “the trader must have manifested its intention to establish commercial relations with such consumers.” The use of domain names is somewhat equivocal, as the Court also stated that “On the other hand, mention on a website of the trader’s email address or geographical address … does not constitute such evidence [demonstrating cross-border activity] as that information does not indicate whether the trader is directing its activity to one or more Member States. See press release No. 118/2010, 7 December 2010, Judgment of the Court of Justice in Joined Cases C-585/08, C-144/09.