249/81 Commission –v- Ireland (Buy Irish Campaign)  ECR 4005
The Irish government sought to promote sales of Irish goods, the object being to achieve a switch of 3% in consumer spending from imports to domestic products. It adopted a number of measures including: an information service indicating to consumers which products were made in Ireland and where they could be obtained (the Shoplink Service); exhibition facilities for Irish goods; the encouragement of the use of the “buy Irish” symbol for goods made in Ireland; and the organisation of a publicity campaign by the Irish Goods Council in favour of Irish products, designed to encourage consumers to buy Irish products. The first two of these activities were subsequently abandoned by the Irish Government, but the latter two strategies continued to be employed. The Commission brought Article 226 proceedings alleging the campaign was an MEQR. Ireland argued that it never adopted “measures” for the purpose of Article 28 and that any financial aid given to the Irish goods council should be judged in light of Articles 87 and 88 not article 28.
The ECT: the Irish government maintains that the prohibition against measures having an effect equivalent to quantitative restrictions in Article 28 is concerned only with the “measures” that is, to say binding provisions emanating from a public authority. However, no such provision has been adopted by the Irish government, which has confined itself to giving moral support and financial aid to the activities pursued by the Irish industries.
The Irish government goes on to emphasise that the campaign has had no restrictive effect on imports since the proportion of Irish goods to all goods sold on the Irish market feel from 49.2% in 1997 to 43.3% in 1980.
While it may be true that the two elements of the programme which have continued in effect, namely the advertising campaign and the use of the “Guaranteed Irish” symbol, have not had any significant success in winning over the Irish market to domestic products, t is not possible to overlook the fact that, regardless of their efficacy, those two activities form part of a government programme which is designed to achieve the substation of domestic products for imported products and is liable to affect the volume of trade between member states.
In the circumstances the two activities in question amount to the establishment of a national practise, introduced by the Irish government and prosecuted with its assistance, the potential effect of which on imports from other Member States is comparable to that resulting from government measures of a binding nature.