The case concerns a person which is born and raised in France and is a French citizen but registered in the population register in Sweden and also a Swedish citizen. In France, the person has been granted to change her surname to Montclair and her new surname was registered in the population register in France. Thereafter, she applied to the Swedish Tax Agency to change her surname to Montclair also in Sweden.
A person may change their surname to a newly formed surname provided, inter alia, that it cannot be confused with a surname used by someone else or someone else’s protected trade name. If these conditions are not met, the person may change their surname only if there are special reasons.
The Swedish Tax Agency decided to reject the person’s application and stated, inter alia, that it could be confused with an existing company name and that there were no special reasons for granting the application.
The Supreme Administrative Court stated in the case that there is an impediment to granting the application for a change of name and that the person may change her surname only if there are special reasons.
However, the person had stated that unless the change of surname was approved problems would arise when grades or similar documents were to be used and in relation to that problems could arise regarding both travel documents and insurance. The Supreme Administrative Court found that the inconveniences described are typically regarded as constituting a restriction to the right to free movement of EU citizens and that there was no reason to question that the inconveniences may arise in practice. Accordingly, the decision of the Swedish Tax Agency not to grant the change of name involves a concrete risk that the persons free movement will be restricted. Such restrictions may be justified only if they are proportionate, i.e. that opposing interests are balanced in a reasonable manner.
As reasons for its position, the Swedish Tax Agency has stated, inter alia, that the person herself has chosen to change her surname in France. The Supreme Administrative Court stated that the case law of the European Court of Justice shows that a restriction on free movement cannot be justified on the sole ground that change of name in another Member State is made voluntarily without taking into consideration the reasons for the change of name. In the overall assessment which is to be carried out, the Supreme Administrative Court found – in the light of the case law of the European Court of Justice in related cases – that the persons interests in being able to change surname weigh more heavily than the reasons against and that special reasons therefore were at hand for the person to be able to change her surname to Montclair.
In the case the person had made a claim for compensation for costs of counsel. The Supreme Administrative Court stated that the question regarding the right to compensation for costs of litigation is, unlike the name issue, of such character that it should be addressed by the Supreme Administrative Court in full session.
Read the judgment here: