France: The Implications Of The Expanded Scope Of The French Class Action System On Potential Liability And Insurance Coverage For Companies Domiciled And Doing Business In France

Last Updated: 19 November 2016
Article by Kevin B. Dreher and Laura Ferry

Although the French class action system has gotten off to a slow start with only 6 actions initiated to date, the recently and anticipated expanded scope of the French class action system will impact the potential liability and insurance coverage of corporations domiciled and doing business in France. For this reason, corporations domiciled and operating in France should continue to monitor the evolving scope of the class action model and consider the scope of insurance coverage available to provide a defense and indemnification in connection with any class actions initiated against them in France.

1. Mixed Results of the French Class Action System After Two Years

On October 1, 2014, a system of class action was introduced into French law to provide a procedure for consumers to seek and obtain relief on a group or class-wide basis. In the first phase under the French class action system, 15 associations representing consumers at a national level and nearly 500 associations in the health care system are authorized to initiate a class action in French court. These associations may be represented by a lawyer and they may participate in a mediation to obtain compensation for individual claimant damages suffered by consumers. In the second phase, the court rules on liability of the defendant(s) and sets the conditions under which individuals can step forward to be included in the group/class to obtain compensation for their damage (i.e., an opt-in system). The third phase involves implementation of the decision to compensate consumers, which would involve the association transferring funds to the group/class members and any related enforcement proceedings to recover compensation awarded by the court.

Under the French class action model, unlike the U.S. model, the initiation of the action has been solely entrusted to authorized "associations" in an effort by the French legislature to avoid the perceived problems with the U.S. class action system, including the perception that U.S. plaintiffs' lawyers initiate too many class action lawsuits and without adequate legal basis for such claims.

Having sought to limit the number of class actions and to narrowly define who can initiate such claims, the French class action model has not achieved any significant impact on protecting consumers since only six class actions have been filed. The class actions initiated have included claims involving rental real estate, financial services, electronic communication and tourist accommodation. One of these class actions concluded with a settlement, which proved for the indemnification of nearly 100,000 consumers. The other class action claims remain unresolved and pending before the courts.

The lack of success of the model has been blamed, at least in part, on the public's perceived ineffectiveness of the consumer associations to proactively initiate claims to protect consumers. Indeed, the media impact of French class actions should not be underestimated because, despite public acknowledgement that the associations lack personnel and financial resources, the public generally is aware that "liability" of the defendant is commonly established from the moment an association initiates a claim.

2. Expansion of the Scope of the French Class Action System May Broaden the Potential Liability of and Implicate Insurance Coverage for Companies in France

The perceived ineffectiveness and lack of success of the French class action model has led to discussions regarding potential modifications to the class regime geared toward expanding its scope and broadening protections to other groups. Because consumer associations rarely resorted to initiating a class action in the two years since the introduction of the class action model in France, the legislature, on 26 January 2016, introduced and ultimately enacted a law to broaden the scope to introduce the class action system to protect consumers in the health care field. This expansion of the scope of the model would enable any of the 486 authorized associations in the French health care system to initiate a class action for the protection of their users. Since 1 July 2016, consumers with a claim can file a class action in the health care field to obtain compensation for damages resulting from personal injuries. Class actions in the health care field extend to consumers of health care services or products, but compensation for non-pecuniary loss is excluded from this type of action.

On 12 October 2016, the law extended the scope of the French class action model to areas of discrimination (including at work), the protection of personal data, environmental issues, and trade union issues (publication in the Official Journal is pending).

Additional efforts are underway to increase the number of class actions initiated by broadening the role of private lawyers through the Paris Bar initiative. Given the lack of financial and human resources, and the perceived ineffectiveness of associations to initiate proceedings, the lawyer members of the Paris Bar created a platform 12 November 2015, called "avocats-adhé," which is a website dedicated to enabling class actions led by lawyers instead of the association. This system differs from the class action system created by the French legislature, which can only be initiated by associations and which concerns specific areas of law and specific damages. The objective of the Paris Bar's initiative is to broaden the types of actions that can be initiated, and to leverage the strength of the French class action model to obtain individual compensation for each individual victim.

Under this new process, the lawyer in charge of the case first will submit an application to an ad hoc committee within the Paris Bar. Once approved, the lawyer will then be able to publicly advertise the contemplated joint action in the media to amass a group of individuals who suffered damaged. Eighteen such actions are currently identified on the website (11 procedures are already closed).

Despite the robust support for the French class action model as advanced through the public statements and speeches from members of the French government, the model has achieved very limited success in practice, in part because of the associations' monopoly to initiate class actions. In light of the perceived ineffectiveness of the French class action model and the associations' lack of resources and personnel, the French legislature intends to broaden the scope and reach of the class action system to other fields, and increase the number of associations with authority to initiate actions.

Although the French class action system has gotten off to a slow start with only six actions initiated to date, the expanded scope of the French class action system will impact the potential liability and insurance coverage of corporations domiciled and doing business in France. For these reasons, corporations operating in France should continue to monitor the evolving scope of the class action model into new industries, and consider the scope of insurance coverage available to provide a defense and indemnification in connection with any class actions initiated against them in France.

This article is presented for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.