France mulls US-style ‘class action’ law suits

The French government is set to consider American-style "class action" lawsuits at a cabinet meeting on Thursday. The reform is designed to give consumers “effective weapons against fraudulent companies,” and would be a first for France.

France mulls US-style 'class action' law suits
File photo: OliBac/Flickr

France's Minister of Consumer Affairs Benoit Hamon looks set  to propose the introduction of US-style class action lawsuits at the government’s cabinet meeting on Thursday.

Hamon labelled the legal instrument a “weapon of mass deterrence” against fraud, price-fixing and other consumer violations, in an interview with French daily L’Express.

“For 20 years, employers’ organizations have been blocking this democratic progress, and for 20 years the French consumer has been under-protected,” Hamon told L’Express when announcing the proposal in April.

During their tenures, former Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy both unsuccessfully attempted to establish class action lawsuits, which allow groups of individuals to collectively sue a defendant or group of defendants, without separately having to file a case and hire a lawyer.

The minister’s planned legislation will offer a more limited version of class action litigation than is found in the United States, for example.

Firstly, under the proposals collective lawsuits will have to be brought through one of France’s 16 officially recognized consumer associations, and secondly, compensation would only be able to be sought for material damages arising from a company’s legal or contractual violation.

Furthermore, whereas in the United States, class action suits are often pursued over public health scandals, under Hamon’s plan collective litigation would be limited to grievances over competition and consumer breaches.

However, there would be no minimum number of plaintiffs required to bring a case, and perhaps most significantly, no upper limit to financial damages.

Employers’ groups, led by the national Medef union, have reacted critically to the plan, in particular the increase in possible damages for cases of consumer violations.

Hamon, however, offered a staunch defense of the proposal. “Is it really shocking to increase sanctions for companies who lie, cheat and can bring down entire industries with them? I don’t think so.”

For its part, France’s biggest consumer group, UFC Que Choisir, has cast doubt on the potential effectiveness of Hamon's plan.

“The process [of claiming damages] can take a very long time. Consumers who are notified 15 years later won’t have the evidence or their receipts anymore,” Alain Bazot from UFC Que Choisir told Europe 1 radio.

“We have to set clear deadlines, so that justice can be delivered swiftly,” he added.

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France crowns its favourite store (but have you heard of it?)

The French have selected their favourite store and it's a supermarket that many readers might not have heard of, but our readers have voted it the best in France.

France crowns its favourite store (but have you heard of it?)
Photo: AFP
France's 2018 store of choice is a supermarket known for selling regional products sold by local, independent businesses, in a market setting. 
This year, the title of France's favourite store went to Grand Frais, a French supermarket with 216 stores around the country, as it dethroned sporting goods retailer Decathlon in the annual ranking by consultancy firm OC&C. 
Decathlon dropped to second place followed by cultural goods shop Cultura, frozen foods store Picard and Fnac, a French retail chain selling cultural and electronic products, making up the top five spots. 
Another supermarket that made the top ten was Leclerc which came 8th while Swedish furniture giant Ikea came tenth. 
And, according to OC&C, this year's survey highlights an interesting consumer trend. 

Readers' tips: Which supermarket in France is the best to shop at?

“The e-commerce platforms are losing ground to more traditional brands, which have often…improved their value for money,” David de Matteis, Managing Partner at OC&C Strategy told Le Figaro
Trust and closeness between the brand and the customer seems to have taken an important place in the 2018 ranking, he added.
This trend aligns with the Grand Frais strategy which spotlights local producers in a more traditional market setting. And it isn't only the French who have fallen for its charms. 
In fact, in a recent readers' tips feature by The Local, Grand Frais was selected as the best supermarket in France
Photo: Lionel Allorge/Wikicommons
Sarah Ashley who runs the Cooking in France Together group on Facebook said her favourite supermarket in France was “Grand Frais by a mile. It's a shame there aren't more of them.
“[It has] the freshest fruit and veg, more exotic choices and friendly, helpful staff. I love how they sell things you just don't get in other supermarkets, like beautiful chilies, almonds still in their green skin and veggies so exotic I have never heard of them before. It is always well stocked and sparkling clean.”
Another fan of Grand Frais, Jiouxleigh Kos also highlighted the wide selection available there. 
“Grand Frais has the best selection of fresh and more exotic food,” she said.
However, due to the fact that there are relatively few branches of Grand Frais, some of those who chose it as their favourite supermarket in France also pointed out that it was often somewhere they went as a treat or “to find something out of the ordinary”. 
With just 216 Grand Frais supermarkets in France (and one in Belgium), there's some luck involved in whether there's one conveniently located near where you live (see map above). 
For those living in Paris, there is no Grand Frais in the French capital however there is one in Fresnes in the southern suburbs.