After many years of discussions, French Government finally presented yesterday a bill for a kind of “class action” procedure in France. The bill is expected to be submitted to the French Parliament at the mid of June.
Until today, accredited consumer associations were allowed to bring two principal forms of group actions:
- a group action in order to remove or invalidate any unlawful or unfair provision in contracts offered to consumers (L.421-6 of French Consumer Code). However, such action does not allow any compensation for damages to individuals;
- a “joint representative” action, which allows at least two consumers to mandate a consumer association to act on their behalf so as to claim legal redress. It shall be pointed out that the association cannot seek mandates from consumers (L.422-1 of the French Consumer Code).
According to the drafted bill on “class action”, the only 16 already officially recognized consumer associations will be entitled to bring a “class action” on behalf of an unlimited number of plaintiffs.
First, the judge will decide as to whether the “class action” is valid or not. Second, if he considers that the “class action” is valid, the necessary measures to inform potential victims will be published, in order for other consumers to possibly opt to be part of the “class action”. The French “class action” will be therefore an “opt in” procedure. This procedure is supposed to be fast, however no time limit is specified.
The scope of this new procedure will only concern material injuries related to consumers and competition law breaches. For instance, environmental, health damages, personal and moral injuries will not be covered by the drafted bill.