In March 2014, the French Parliament adopted the Hamon Consumer law (Act N˚ 2014-344 of March 17, 2014) creating the first class action procedure in France.
This class action procedure will enable customers to rally and sue for customer protection and antitrust claims. For the time being, consumer associations are the sole representatives allowed to defend consumer rights in court. These associations, submitted to ministerial approval, can be mandated by several consumers for their defense. This civil action is limited to the recovery of pecuniary damages for injuries allegedly caused by a same breach of contract, statutory duty or anti-competitive practices by the same defendant.
For a long time, class actions were denied as it was considered one can only defend one’s own interests in court. But this time, consumer protection prevailed and after examination by the Constitutional Council, the bill was adopted.
Such group actions have a larger impact than individual actions and should favor citizens’ rights. Currently, this action is very unfavorable to the defendant. The adoption of this new procedure can be seen as a response to the recent scandals involving consumers’ injuries. But even when they are not found guilty, the companies will suffer from the media attention.
This new procedure will take effect after the publication of the implementation decree. In 30 months, a report is scheduled to assess the procedure. Now that the door has been opened, the government expressed its wish to extend class action procedures to environmental and health claims.
This Consumer law also includes measures related to online consumer protection. For more information regarding these measures, you can read the article “E-commerce: Amendments to the law”.