On 20 January 2005, an Act relating to the protection of consumers
had its second reading in the Lower House of the French Parliament.
The legislation addresses three issues: the termination of contracts; revolving
loans; and advertising. In each case, the aim is to improve consumers’
awareness of their rights. On the issue of termination of contracts, an obligation
is imposed on firms to remind consumers at least a month in advance of the approaching
deadline for terminating their contract. The Act also purports to limit the
duration of revolving loans: non activated revolving loans will automatically
cease to have effect after three years and any increase in the amount of money
available will necessitate a new loan agreement. Finally, the advertisement
of loan offers without interest (such as “buy now, pay in three months
time”) will be allowed outside sale premises.
On 16 June, the Minister of Justice, Dominique Perben, submitted to the Cabinet
of Ministers a text introducing a new form of liability for defective goods
sold to consumers. The text implements European Directive 1999/44 of 25 May
1999. Liability would be based on a discrepancy between the goods actually sold
to consumers and the goods as described in the sales contract. Such a discrepancy
would entitle consumers to claim either replacement or repair of the sold item.
This liability would be restricted to contracts with consumers and would therefore
be incorporated in the Consumers Code and not the Code civil. The two existing
remedies of the Code civil (i.e. guarantee against hidden defects and damages
for delivery not conforming to the contract) would remain available for non-consumers.
Consumers would also still be able to rely on the guarantee available under
the Code civil. This complex system thus adds a third remedy to the two existing
ones and has been accused by some authors as contradicting the Directive’s
aim of uniformity.