In a decision adopted yesterday (October 18), the EU's General Court annulled the rebalancing duties imposed by the European Commission in 2020 against imports of Zippo lighters into the EU. This is because the Commission did not make it possible for Zippo to effectively exercise its right to be heard, despite the company being directly and individually impacted by the duties imposed. It does not matter than no specific procedural safeguards are provided for in the Regulation permitting the Commission to impose rebalancing duties. The right to be heard is a fundamental right guaranteed by the EU's treaties (the EU's ‘constitution’).
This judgment of the General Court can - and most likely will - be appealed before the EU's highest court, the Court of Justice.
where the conduct of the procedure for the adoption of that act leads the Commission to identify a natural or legal person whose interests are likely to be adversely affected by the measures provided for by that same act, it should be considered that that person must be able to submit information relating to his or her personal circumstances as will argue in favour of the adoption or non-adoption of the act in question, or in favour of its having a specific content.
... the Commission, of its own initiative, identified the applicants’ products as being the subject of the rebalancing measures envisaged via the contested regulation.
It follows from the foregoing that, in the circumstances of the present case, the applicants had the right to be heard during the procedure for adopting the contested regulation.