An implementation circular published on October 31, 2014, finally provides for more details on the French action de groupe procedure as well as a chart outline of the action de groupe.
It is recalled that an action de groupe may lie only if certain conditions are fulfilled, i.e., a plurality of consumers (at least two) in a similar or identical situation having suffered individual, economic damages stemming from a violation of a legal or contractual obligation by a professional in connection with either the sale of goods or the supply of services. Damages stemming from anticompetitive practices may also be indemnified within the action de groupe.
The wording of the law thus excludes damages resulting from personal injury, moral or environmental damages, as well as moral damages resulting from material damages. Such damages remain indemnifiable, however, by virtue of individual proceedings launched by the consumer against the professional.
The action de groupe procedure – constituted by a single proceeding – will take place in three phases:
1. Judgment Ruling on Professional Liability
The judgment must state that the action de groupe legal conditions are fulfilled and rule on the professional’s liability. Then, the judgment must specify the means of indemnification of the consumers to whom the judgment will apply (publicity measures and terms, how to join the class by opting in, indemnification of the consumers who joined the class).
2. Implementation of the Judgment
It should be specified that this phase may be implemented only once the judgment ruling on professional liability is final. It deals with the indemnification of the consumers who have joined the class. This phase does not involve the Court, unless petitioned by the parties in case of difficulties in implementing the judgment on liability. There is good reason to think that with
hindsight and American class action experience, many of the issues raised will likely deal with the scope of the class, i.e., the eligibility of certain consumers to join the class.
3. Closing of the Procedure
If no issue is raised during the previous phase, the procedure will be closed by a judgment recording the end of the procedure. However, if the professional did not indemnify all consumers based on the judgment ruling on liability, the procedure will be closed by a judgment liquidating the damages.