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Hoechst AG v. Commission , Joined Cases 46/87 & 227/88, 1989 E.C.R. 2859

Facts: The applicants are companies involved in the polyvinyl chloride and polyethylene business. They were suspected of unlawful agreements with respect to fixing of prices and delivery quotas for such products. Accordingly, European Commission officials conducted searches and seizures of the offices of three publicly held limited liability companies

Complaint: The applicants claimed that the European Commission Officials had violated their obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

Holding: corporate privacy protection was considered a fundamental principle of Community law. It found that respect for private life and home, as protected under Articles 8 and 9 of the ECHR, does not apply to business premises

Reasoning: The ECJ stated that there was a general principle of Community law that "any intervention by the public authorities in the sphere of private activities of any person, whether natural or legal, must have a legal basis and be justified on the grounds laid down by law, and . . . provide . . . protection against arbitrary or disproportionate intervention." The court simultaneously stressed, however, that this was not the same as saying that there existed a general fundamental right concerning the inviolability of the business premises of legal persons. The court conceded that individuals had a fundamental right to inviolability of their homes, but an extension of this principle to encompass corporate premises did not necessarily follow from this conclusion. The court, in making this distinction, relied on ECHR Article 8, whose protective scope, the ECJ considered, "is concerned with the development of man's personal freedom and may not therefore be extended to business premises."

 

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