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Colas Est SA v. Fr ., App. No. 37971/97, Eur. Ct. H.R. (Apr. 16, 2002)

Facts: the applicants were privately owned, but publicly held, limited liability companies. They were subject to a large-scale investigation carried out by the French Directorate General for Competition, to investigate suspicions of unlawful contract practices among large public contractors. Pursuant to the relevant legislation, investigators conducted searches and seizures on the premises of the companies concerned without a warrant. They were held to have engaged in unlawful business practices and were fined.

Complaints: the companies claimed that French authorities, in their handling of the case before domestic courts, had violated their obligations under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Holding: the ECHR held that the right to the protection of one's home extended to the business premises of the companies. The court also held that French authorities had violated the companies' rights under this provision in respect of the searches and seizures conducted in their offices without a court warrant.

Reasoning: The court adopted of a two-tiered scheme of protection, according to which the protection of the privacy and home of private individuals is to be interpreted with substantially greater vigor than those protections as applied to juridical persons

 

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