Case C‑470/03, A.G.M.-COS.MET Srl

>> When are public statements attributable to the State?

>> Decisive factor whether persons addressed could reasonably suppose that they were positions taken by official with authority of his office.

AGM is a remarkable case, in particular because it deals with a question one would typically expect in a national administrative law case, not in a MEQR case of the Court of Justice.

AGM was an Italian manufacture of vehicle lifts, which, in a television interview, had been described as non-compliant and dangerous by a Finish official. AGM subsequently sought damages from the Finnish State for loss of turnover that it alleged was caused by these statements. The Finnish Government, however, argued the official had acted deliberately contrary to his ministry’s official position.

The Court held that the decisive factor for attributing the statements of an official to the State was whether the persons to whom the statements were addressed could reasonably suppose that they were positions taken by the official with the authority of his office.

In this respect, it is for the national court to assess in particular whether:

1) the official has authority generally within the sector in question;

2) the official sends out his statements in writing under the official letterhead of the competent department;
3) the official gives television interviews on his department’s premises;
4) the official does not indicate that his statements are personal or that they differ from the official position of the competent department; and
5) the competent State departments do not take the necessary steps as soon as possible to dispel the impression on the part of the persons to whom the official’s statements are addressed that they are official positions taken by the State.

Text of Judgment