Case C-99/16, Lahorgue – prevented access to a VPN and impeded in the internal market of legal services

French lawyers can access a Virtual Private Network but access depends on their local bar. In this case, a French lawyer in Luxembourg has been refused access to the bar of Lyon’s Virtual Private Network. Is this discrimination contrary to the internal market in legal services?

Background
French lawyers can access a Virtual Private Network but access depends on their local bar. In this case, a French lawyer in Luxembourg has been refused access to the Virtual Private Network because he is not a member of the local bar.

Does this refusal constitute illegitimate discrimination in the internal market in legal services?

Question Referred
According to the EU’s Official Journal (OJ [2016] C165/7), the Tribunal de grande instance in Lyon has asked:

Is the refusal to issue a secure router for accessing the Private Virtual Network for Lawyers (RPVA) to a lawyer duly registered at the Bar of a Member State in which he wishes to practise his profession as a free provider of services contrary to Article 4 of Directive 77/249/EC, […] on the basis that it constitutes a discriminatory measure which could impede the practice of his profession as a free provider of services?

Comment
This case already involves the Ordre des avocats du barreau de Lyon, the Conseil national des barreaux ‘CNB’, the Conseil des barreaux européens ‘CCBE’, and the Ordre des avocats du barreau de Luxembourg.

The ability of regulatory licensing practices to restrict access to a piece of technology with a knock-on effect on the supply of services is also at stake in a set of media cases from Italy; see further, Case C-112/16, Persidera – access to Italian broadcasting frequencies.

Update – 11 December 2016
The Third Chamber is due to hear this case on 11 January 2017.

Update – 15 January 2017
Advocate General Wathelet’s Opinion is due on 9 February 2017.