On Feb. 13, 2014, the French National Assembly adopted the
so-called "loi Hamon," an Act of Parliament
related to consumers' rights and, supplier-distributor
relations. Following the French Constitutional Council Decision
confirming the act on March 13, 2014, it was published in the
Official Journal of the French Republic on March 18, 2014.
France was one of the last major countries in Europe not to have
a collective redress system, although it was discussed for several
years by different French governments. The new law allows consumers
who suffered similarly or identically from a professional's
breach of its legal or contractual obligations, to introduce an
action against the professional. The class action may only take
place in the case of a sale of goods, a provision of services, or a
breach of any competition law provisions (abuse of dominant
position or a cartel established by a competition authority), as
only compensation for pecuniary losses may be claimed (no punitive
damages). Only a few consumer associations are authorized to bring
an action on behalf of consumers.
Once such an action is filed, the relevant Court of First
Instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance) will have to determine: (1)
the professional's liability on the basis of the individual
claims; (2) the group of consumers to whom the professional is
liable; (3) the amount of damages for each consumer or category of
consumers; and (4) the publicity measures that the professional
will have to take to invite consumers who may be affected to join
the group within a practical time limit. The Court also may order
investigation measures, and a second judgment may be necessary if
any difficulty related to the implementation of the first ruling
arises. To this end, at any time during the course of the
proceedings, the judge may order any legally permissible
investigatory measure necessary to preserve evidence and documents,
including those being held by the professional.
A simplified procedure was created that may be used when the
number and identity of the victims are known and damages suffered
are of a similar amount. The Court may order the professional to
compensate victims directly and individually. It may also direct
advertising measures once the decision becomes final but before its
execution, in order to allow consumers to accept to be indemnified
in the terms of the decision.
Both the regular and the simplified procedures are
"opt-in" procedures through which consumers affected by
some professionals' practices have to take positive measures to
join the class and be indemnified under the judgment's
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