ECJ: Individuals cannot request the authority responsible for maintaining the companies’ register, to limit access to personal data concerning them entered in that register

European Court of Justice: In the instant case wherein the issue was that whether Article 3 of Directive 68/151/EEC of 9 March 1968 and Article 6(1) (e) of Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament, must be interpreted to mean that Member States may, and must, allow individuals, covered by Article 2(1)(d) and (j) of Directive 68/151, to request the authority responsible for maintaining the companies’ register, to limit the access to personal data concerning them entered in that register after a certain period has elapsed from the dissolution of the company concerned, the Court held that individuals cannot demand that personal data be erased from company records in an official register.

The case was brought by an Italian businessman Salvatore Manni the sole director of a building company. By an action dated 12-12-2007, Manni brought proceedings against the Lecce Chamber of Commerce, claiming that the properties in that complex were not selling because it was apparent from the companies’ register that he had been the sole director and liquidator of Immobiliare Salentina. Manni alleged that the personal data concerning him, which appear in the companies’ register, had been processed by a company specialised in the collection and processing of market information and in risk assessment. Manni therefore sought an order requiring the Lecce Chamber of Commerce to erase, or block the data linking him to the liquidation of Immobiliare Salentina, which was duly given by the Tribunale di Lecce (Court of Lecce, Italy). Lecce Chamber of Commerce brought an appeal against that judgment before the Corte suprema di cassazione (Court of Cassation, Italy), which decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the matter to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling.

It was observed that under Article 2(1)(d) of Directive 68/151, Member States must take the measures necessary to ensure compulsory disclosure by companies of the appointments, termination of office, persons authorised to represent the company in dealings with third parties, persons involved with the administration, supervision or control of that company. Furthermore according to Article 2(1)(j), the appointment of liquidators, and particulars concerning them and, their respective powers must also be disclosed. The Court thereby ruled that the aforementioned Directives, “must be interpreted as meaning that, it is for the Member States to determine whether the natural persons referred to in Article 2(1)(d) and (j) of that directive may apply to the authority responsible for keeping, respectively, the central register, commercial register or companies register to determine, on the basis of a case by case assessment, if it is exceptionally justified, on compelling legitimate grounds relating to their particular situation, to limit, on the expiry of a sufficiently long period after the dissolution of the company concerned, access to personal data relating to them, entered in that register, to third parties who can demonstrate a specific interest in consulting that data.” [Camera di Commercio, Industria, Artigianato e Agricoltura di Lecce v. Salvatore Manni, C-398/15, decided on 09.03.2017]

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