Language of document : ECLI:EU:T:2011:417

ORDER OF THE GENERAL COURT (Fifth Chamber)

6 September 2011 (*)

(Procedure – Taxation of costs)

In Case T‑466/07 DEP,

Osram GmbH, established in Munich (Germany), represented by R. Bierwagen, lawyer,

applicant,

supported by

Slovak Republic, represented by J. Čorba, and subsequently by B. Ricziová, acting as Agents, assisted by R. Van der Hout, lawyer,

intervener,

v

Council of the European Union, represented by J.-P. Hix and B. Driessen, acting as Agents, assisted by G. Berrisch, lawyer,

defendant,

supported by

European Commission, represented by H. van Vliet and K. Talabér‑Ritz, acting as Agents,

Hangzhou Duralamp Electronics Co. Ltd, established in Hangzhou (China), represented by M. Gambardella and V. Villante, lawyers,

Philips Lighting Poland S.A., established in Piła (Poland),

Philips Lighting BV, established in Eindhoven (Netherlands),

represented by M.-L. Catrain-González, lawyer, and E. Wright, Barrister,

General Electric Hungary Ipari és Kereskedelmi Zrt, established in Budapest (Hungary), represented by P. De Baere, lawyer,

interveners,

APPLICATION for taxation of the costs to be paid by Osram GmbH to General Electric Hungary Ipari és Kereskedelmi Zrt following the order of the President of the Fourth Chamber of the General Court of 5 September 2008 in Case T‑466/07 Osram v Council, not published in the ECR,

THE GENERAL COURT (Fifth Chamber),

composed of S. Papasavvas, President, V. Vadapalas and K. O’Higgins (Rapporteur), Judges,

Registrar: E. Coulon,

makes the following

Order

 Facts, procedure and forms of order sought

1        By application lodged at the Registry of the General Court on 25 December 2007, the applicant, Osram GmbH, bought an action seeking the annulment of Council Regulation (EC) No 1205/2007 of 15 October 2007 imposing anti-dumping duties on imports of integrated electronic compact fluorescent lamps (CFL-i) originating in the People’s Republic of China following an expiry review pursuant to Article 11(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 384/96 and extending to imports of the same product consigned from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of the Philippines (OJ 2007 L 272, p. 1) (‘the contested regulation’).

2        By a separate document lodged at the Court Registry on the same day, the applicant applied for an expedited procedure pursuant to Article 76a of the Court’s Rules of Procedure. By letter of 21 February 2008, the applicant informed the Court that, if that application were granted, it would have to rule only on the third plea in law set out in the application. By decision of 27 February 2008, the Court (Fourth Chamber) granted that application, taking account of the fact that it would be called upon to adjudicate only on that third plea in law.

3        By documents lodged at the Court Registry on 27 March, 3 April, 4 April and 15 April 2008, respectively, Hangzhou Duralamp Electronics Co. Ltd, the Commission, Philips Lighting Poland S.A., Philips Lighting BV and General Electric Hungary Ipari és Kereskedelmi Zrt (‘GE Hungary’) applied to intervene in the present proceedings in support of the form of order sought by the Council. By a document lodged at the Court Registry on 4 April 2008, the Slovak Republic applied to intervene in the proceedings in support of the form of order sought by the applicant.

4        By three orders of 22 April 2008, the President of the Fourth Chamber of the Court granted the applications to intervene.

5        At the hearing on 28 April 2008, the parties, with the exception of the Slovak Republic, which did not take part in the hearing, submitted oral argument and answered the Court’s questions.

6        By letter lodged at the Court Registry on 3 July 2008, the applicant informed the Court, in accordance with Article 99 of the Rules of Procedure, that it was discontinuing its action.

7        By order of 5 September 2008 in Case T‑466/07 Osram v Council, not published in the ECR, the President of the Fourth Chamber of the Court, first, removed Case T‑466/07 from the Court’s register, after having allowed the applicant to withdraw its application, and, second, ordered that, in addition to its own costs, the applicant pay, inter alia, the costs of GE Hungary.

8        By letter of 12 November 2008, GE Hungary requested the applicant to reimburse to it the sum of EUR 22 286 in respect of costs.

9        By letter of 20 November 2008, the applicant claimed that that sum was excessive and offered to pay a sum of EUR 3 500.

10      In the absence of agreement with the applicant on the amount of costs, GE Hungary, by document lodged at the Registry of the Court on 11 March 2009, requested the Court, pursuant to Article 92(1) of the Rules of Procedure, to fix the amount of costs to be reimbursed at EUR 22 286.

11      In its observations lodged at the Registry of the Court on 11 May 2009, the applicant requested the General Court to dismiss the application of GE Hungary and to fix the amount of recoverable costs at EUR 3 500.

 Law

 Arguments of the parties

12      The costs recovery of which is sought by GE Hungary amount to EUR 22 286 and may be broken down as follows:

–        legal fees: EUR 21 950 for a total of 60 hours and 45 minutes of work:

–        lawyer A: 43 hours and 30 minutes of work at an hourly rate of EUR 450, totalling EUR 19 575;

–        lawyer B: 1 hour and 15 minutes of work at an hourly rate of EUR 300, totalling EUR 375 ;

–        lawyer C: 16 hours of work at an hourly rate of EUR 125, totalling EUR 2 000;

–        travel expenses and subsistence expenses to and in Luxembourg: EUR 336.

13      In support of its application, GE Hungary states that, in light of the fact that the case was the subject of an expedited procedure, it had less than a week to prepare its entire legal argument for the purposes of the hearing and to entrust the representation of its interests in the present case to lawyers possessing significant experience in anti‑dumping law. GE Hungary points out that those lawyers did not represent it in the administrative procedure which led to the adoption of the contested regulation and, consequently, were not already familiar with the complex factual and technical aspects of the case.

14      The applicant considers that the amount sought by GE Hungary in respect of recoverable costs is too high. It points out, inter alia, that it limited its action to a single plea, raising one legal question which had already been very extensively discussed within the community of lawyers specialised in commercial law in Brussels, and that the working time devoted to the proceedings by the lawyers acting for GE Hungary, which was merely an intervener in the case, is excessive.

 Findings of the Court

15      Under Article 92(1) of the Rules of Procedure, if there is a dispute concerning the costs to be recovered, the Court, on application by the party concerned and after hearing the opposite party, is to make an order, from which no appeal may lie.

16      Under Article 91(b) of the Rules of Procedure, expenses necessarily incurred by the parties for the purpose of the proceedings, in particular the travel and subsistence expenses and the remuneration of agents, advisers or lawyers, are to be regarded as recoverable costs. It follows from that provision that recoverable costs are limited, first, to those incurred for the purpose of the proceedings before the Court and, second, to those which are necessary for that purpose (see order in Case T‑342/99 DEP Airtours v Commission [2004] ECR II‑1785, paragraph 13 and the case-law cited).

17      It is settled case-law that the Court is not empowered to tax the fees payable by the parties to their own lawyers, but may determine the amount of those fees to be recovered from the party ordered to pay the costs. When ruling on an application for taxation of costs, the Court is not obliged to take account of any national scale of lawyers’ fees or any agreement in that regard between the party concerned and his agents or advisers (see order in Airtours v Commission, cited in paragraph 16 above, paragraph 17 and the case‑law cited).

18      It is also settled case-law that, in the absence of European Union law provisions laying down fee scales, the Court must make an unfettered assessment of the facts of the case, taking into account the purpose and nature of the proceedings, their significance from the point of view of European Union law, the difficulties presented by the case, the amount of work generated by the case for the agents or advisers involved and the financial interests which the parties had in the proceedings (see order in Airtours v Commission, cited in paragraph 16 above, paragraph 18 and the case‑law cited).

19      Finally, account must be taken of the fact that, as a general rule, the procedural task of an intervener is significantly aided by the work of the main party in support of which it has intervened. As an intervention is, by its nature, subordinate to the main action, it cannot, therefore, present as many difficulties as that action, save in exceptional cases (order of 12 December 2008 in Case T‑417/05 DEP Endesa v Commission, not published in the ECR, paragraph 45).

20      It is on the basis of those criteria that the amount of the costs recoverable in the present case must be determined.

21      In respect of the purpose and nature of the proceedings, their significance from the point of view of European Union law and the difficulties presented by the case, it should be noted that the main proceedings involved an action for the annulment of a Council regulation providing for the maintenance of anti-dumping duties imposed on imports of certain types of lamps originating in the People’s Republic of China and extending to imports of the same types of lamps consigned from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the Republic of the Philippines. In order to obtain the benefit of the expedited procedure, the applicant limited its action to a single plea alleging a breach of Article 11(2) of Council Regulation (EC) No 384/96 of 22 December 1995 on protection against dumped imports from countries not members of the European Community (OJ 1996 L 56, p. 1), as amended by Council Regulation (EC) No 2117/2005 of 21 December 2005 (OJ 2005 L 340, p. 17). That plea raised, in essence, the question whether the Council was authorised to limit the period of application of the contested regulation to one year whereas, according to the above provision, the period of application of definitive anti-dumping duties is five years. That is a very limited and purely legal question which presented no particular complexity and was not totally novel since it bore similarities to the Court’s judgment in Case T‑232/95 Cecom v Council [1998] ECR II‑2679.

22      Having regard to the points made in paragraph 21 above and to the fact that GE Hungary was not a principal party but an intervener, it is appropriate to take the view that the proceedings could have occasioned its lawyers only a limited amount of work. That is all the more true as the matter was treated under the expedited procedure and that, accordingly, GE Hungary was not called upon to lodge a statement in intervention. Thus, the services provided by the lawyers of GE Hungary were limited, in essence, to the preparation and submission of the application to intervene, to the preparation of and participation in the hearing of 28 April 2008, and to the preparation and submission of the written observations on the applicant’s withdrawal.

23      It must be held that the hours of work devoted to the preparation and submission of the application to intervene, that is to say, a total of 30 hours and 15 minutes, are significantly excessive, particularly in so far as they include 18 hours of work by the most experienced lawyer of GE Hungary. It must be noted in particular, in that respect, that the application to intervene consisted of only 6 pages (excluding the cover page) and that its contents provide no evidence of complex or demanding legal work. In the present case, 5 hours devoted to those different services constitute the limit of what could be regarded as indispensable.

24      The hours of work, namely 20 hours and 30 minutes, devoted to the preparation of and participation in the hearing, and which are entirely attributable to the most experienced lawyer of GE Hungary, are also excessive. In that respect, it should be recalled, first, that the action was based on a single plea which raised a very limited and purely legal question (see paragraph 21 above) and, second, that that plea had already been examined in detail by the Council in its statement in defence. It is, therefore, appropriate to fix the total amount of the working time of GE Hungary’s lawyers which was objectively indispensable for the purposes of the services referred to below at 12 hours.

25      Finally, the hours of work completed after the hearing and which, in essence, were devoted to the submission of written observations on the applicant’s withdrawal, that is to say, 10 hours (of which 5 are attributable to GE Hungary’s most experienced lawyer) significantly exceed what might be regarded as indispensable. It must be observed, in that regard, that, in those observations, GE Hungary limited itself to asserting that it had no objection to make to that withdrawal and to requesting that the Court order that the costs incurred by GE Hungary be borne by the applicant. The working time indispensable for the purpose of those post-hearing services could not objectively have exceeded 3 hours.

26      Furthermore, it may be deduced from the fee notes annexed to the application for taxation of costs that the average weighted hourly rate was approximately EUR 360 for the 60 hours and 45 minutes of work billed by GE Hungary’s lawyers, which seems excessive. In the present case, the average hourly rate to be admitted should not exceed EUR 285, which is the appropriate hourly rate to remunerate the services of a particularly experienced professional, capable of working very efficiently and rapidly (see, to that effect, order of 15 September 2010 in Case T‑221/05 DEP Huvis v Council, paragraph 41).

27      In light of all of the foregoing, the Court will make an equitable assessment of the legal fees recoverable by GE Hungary by fixing their amount at EUR 5 700. Although the case may be regarded as involving significant economic interests, that fact cannot, in light of the findings set out in paragraphs 21 to 26 above, justify a fixing of the amount of those fees at a higher level.

28      With regard to the travel expenses and subsistence expenses to and in Luxembourg, estimated by GE Hungary at EUR 336, it must be held that this sum is not overstated.

29      In the light of all the foregoing considerations, the Court considers that all of the costs recoverable by GE Hungary will be fairly assessed by fixing their amount at EUR 6 036, which takes account of all the circumstances of the case up to the date of the present order.

On those grounds,

THE GENERAL COURT (Fifth Chamber)

hereby orders:

The total amount of costs to be reimbursed to General Electric Hungary Ipari és Kereskedelmi Zrt by Osram GmbH is fixed at EUR 6 036.

Luxembourg, 6 September 2011.

E. Coulon

 

      S. Papasavvas

Registrar

 

       President


* Language of the case: English.