The chances of a Unilever subsidiary relying on an Irish Supreme Court judgment, to overturn a European Commission decision banning its insistence on retailers stocking gifted freezer cabinets exclusively with its ice cream, have been ruled out by the European Court of Justice.

Its judges said that an Irish court ruling in favour of Unilever’s Van Den Bergh Foods Ltd, (formerly HB Ice Cream Ltd), should be stayed, pending a final outcome of the case, also at the ECJ. HB had been taken to the Irish High Court in 1990 by Mars subsidiary, Masterfoods Ltd, because of its exclusivity clause over the use of freezer cabinets that it gave or rented cheaply to retailers.

Masterfoods failed to convince the Irish Supreme Court that retailers should be allowed to stock its ice cream in these cabinets, but also took the case to the European Commission, which later ruled on competition grounds, that the exclusivity contracts were illegally restrictive under EU free trade laws.

By Keith Nuthall, correspondent