President François Hollande has signed into law France’s new Consumer Law, which includes a class action procedure for consumer protection and antitrust claims. While the law took effect when signed on March 19, 2014, this procedure is not immediately effective. It has survived a Constitutional Council review, and the government has already indicated that it wishes to extend the model to health and environmental claims. Additional details about the class-action provisions appear in Shook, Hardy & Bacon’s April 2014 International Class Action Update..
The class-action provisions will not take effect until the implementation decree is published, which is expected this summer. The decree will provide more technical information about the law’s operation and interpretation. For example, in its current form, the law provides little guidance for courts about the criteria to apply in determining whether a claim is appropriate for class resolution. Other statutory requirements include limiting standing to bring class actions to officially recognized consumer associations, providing recovery only for pecuniary damages for injuries allegedly caused by a breach of contract or statutory duty in connection with the sale of goods or supply of services, and establishing a two-phase proceeding. A court will first decide general liability as to representative plaintiffs and then certify the class. After appeals are exhausted, absent class members are notified during the second phase, and they have the opportunity to opt in and enforce their claim by providing evidence of class membership.