Discrimination, equal treatment, electricity and collateral damage: CHEZ Razpredelenie Bulgaria

The recent judgment of the Grand Chamber of the CJEU in CHEZ Razpredelenie Bulgaria (Judgment) [2015] EUECJ C-83/14 has generated much comment and concern that it has widened considerably the range of EU discrimination law.

The facts

CHEZ RB supplies electricity. Its managers decided to fix the electricity meters at a height of approximately 6 metres in the Gizdova mahala district of the town of Dupnitsa, as opposed to the usual 1.7 metres in other areas: the reason for doing so was that there had been cases of meter tampering and unlawful connections to the electricity network. The residents of Gizdova mahala were predominantly of Roma ethnicity.

Ms Nikolova ran a grocer’s shop in the district. She complained to the Bulgarian Commission for Protection against Discriminations, pointing out that because her own supply unit was 6 metres above ground-level she was unable to read it herself to monitor her electricity use and check it against the alleged usage on her bills – which she thought were incorrect. Further, she argued that Roma people were disadvantaged by CHEZ RB’s practice when compared to others and that, though not of Roma origin herself, she suffered the same disadvantage. The Commission held that she had been subject to indirect discrimination on grounds of ethnicity. CHEZ RB appealed to the Administrative Court of Sofia. Continue reading