PWC Landwell v LY. The French SC on the EU consumer rights Directive and arbitration agreements.

Many thanks Alain Devers for alerting us back in October to the French Supreme Court’s judgment in PWC Landwell v LY, on agreements to arbitrate and the consumer rights Directive 93/13. Apologies for late posting.

The Supreme Court held [20 ff] that the contract between a client, domicoled at France, and PWC Landwell’s Spanish offices (Landwell used to be the trading name of the law firm side of this multidisciplinary practice), fell within the consumer title of Brussels IA. The Court of Appeal’s judgment had clearly run through the CJEU-sanctioned ‘directed at’ test and found it satisfied in the case at issue (the Landwell website boasting international coverage of its services as well as international contact numbers as strong indicators).

The SC also held that the requirement to turn to arbitration was incompatible with the Consumer Rights Directive 93/13, in particular its A6 which per CJEU C‑147/16 Karel de Grote — Hogeschool Katholieke Hogeschool Antwerpen confirmed in C-51/17 OTP Bank et OTP Faktoring is of ordre public character. The SC agreed with the CA that the clause, despite the client having been in the presence of a bank employee when the contract was put to her, was not properly negotiated and qualifies as a clause abusif.

Geert.

EU Private International Law 3rd ed 2021, para 2.277.

 

Koch Films v Ouragan Films et al. The French SC on provisional measures under Brussels IA.

Gilles Cuniberti  discusses Koch Films v Ouragan Films et al at the French Supreme Court, a case which as also signalled by Hélene Péroz. The judgment is an important one for it signals the continuing uncertainty of interpreting ‘provisional’ under Brussels Ia. In its earlier case-law (Ergo; Haras de Coudrettes) the SC took a more relaxed approach than a strict reading of CJEU St.Paul Dairy might suggest. Unlike Gilles I do not think the SC’s judgment here necessarily signals a return to orthodoxy. In rebuking the Court of Appeal for having too readily dismissed the measures as not being provisional, and in demanding it review whether the measures might not (also) be meant to preserve evidence, it could be said that the opposite might be true: as long as the measure at least in part preserves evidence, other motives do not endanger its provisional character.

En se déterminant ainsi, par une affirmation générale, sans rechercher si ces mesures, qui visaient à obtenir la communication de documents en possession des parties adverses, n’avaient pas pour objet de prémunir la société Koch contre un risque de dépérissement d’éléments de preuve dont la conservation pouvait commander la solution du litige, la cour d’appel a privé sa décision de base légale au regard des textes susvisés [7]

One will have to await future direction.

Geert.

EU Private International Law 3rd ed 2021, 2.559.

 

Duffy v Centraal Beheer Achmea. Interim payments qalified as procedural, not within the scope of Rome II.

Update 23 February 2021 see Gilles Cuniberti here on a related issue of the application of the lex causae to interim proceedings, with the French Supreme Court reversing decades of case-law to hold that interim measures are included in the lex causae, not subject to lex fori.

I am busy on many fronts and not complaining, yet I am sorry if some posts are therefore a little later than planned. A quick flag of Duffy v Centraal Beheer Achmea [2020] EWHC 3341 (QB) in which Coe J noted parties agreed that interim payments are included in the Rome II exemption of evidence and procedure: at 8:

The claim is brought in the English Court against a Dutch motor insurer and it is agreed that the law of the Netherlands applies to this claim in tort. The claimant, as a result of Dutch law has a direct right of action against the insurer and, following the decision in FBTO v Odenbreit [2007] C 463-06, the jurisdiction of the English Court is not an issue. The law of the Netherlands applies (pursuant to Article 41(1) of the Rome II Regulation on applicable law in tort (Regulation 864/2007)). Dutch law will govern limitation, breach of duty and causation as well as the existence of, the nature of and the assessment of damages to which the claimant might be entitled. Matters of procedure and evidence are nonetheless reserved to the forum court (see Article 15 (c) of the Rome II Regulation and Article 1(3)). This is an application for an interim payment which is a procedural application and thus governed by English law. However, when it comes to any assessment of the damages to which the claimant might be entitled on which to base the interim payment decision, Dutch law has to be applied.

Coe J has little reason to disagree however I imagine she would have entertained the issues more had the distinction between Dutch and English law on the interim payment issue been materially different, hence had counsel made diverging noise. For as I have signalled before, the extent of the evidence and procedure exemption is not clear at all.

Geert.

EU Private International Law. 3rd ed. 2021, Chapter 4, Heading 4.8.

 

The Agent Orange litigation in France. A reminder of France’s infamous Article 14.

A succinct post on yesterday’s reports that the French courts are now properly engaging with the action brought in France by more than a dozen US-based corporations (and one local, French defendant) on the continuing impact of the use of Agent Orange by the US Army in Vietnam. Thank you Taco van der Valk for pointing me to an earlier interlocutory judgment which identifies defendants.

Claimant is a dual French-Vietnamese citisen. Jurisdiction is based on Article 4 BIa against the one French defendant. Against the non-EU based other defendants, Brussels Ia does not apply. Anchor jurisdiction with the French defendant in play, reinforces the jurisdiction based on claimant’s French nationality (the infamous, often labelled ‘exorbitant’ jurisdictional rule of Article 14 of the Code Civil; on which see here). Claimant’s domicile in France presumably is an additional reinforcing factor.

Geert.

European Private International Law, 3rd ed. 2021, para 2.139.

French neonicotinoids measures and administrative compliance under EU law. The CJEU takes a view protective of Member States’ room for manoeuvre.

The ‘transparency’ or ‘notification’ Directive 2015/1535 (the successor to Directive 98/34) featured twice at the CJEU yesterday. In Case C‑711/19 Admiral Sportwetten, the Court held that a national tax rule that provides for taxation of the operation of betting terminals does not constitute a ‘technical regulation’ that needs to be notified under the Directive. In Case C-514/19 Union des industries de la protection des plantes it held more directly than Kokott AG had opined, that France had validly informed the Commission of the need to take measures intended, in particular, to protect bees by banning the use of 3 active substances of the neonicotinoid family which had been authorised for use under the relevant EU procedure. That procedure is regulated by Directive 1107/2009 on plant protection products.

The complication in the case in essence is a result of the dual procedure for national safeguard measures as a result of the existence of both the PPP and the notification Directive. May a communication of a Member State under the Notification Directive, double as notification of emergency measures under the PPP Directive? The CJEU held it can, provided the notification contains a clear presentation of the evidence showing, first, that those active substances are likely to constitute a serious risk to human or animal health or to the environment and, second, that that risk cannot be controlled without the adoption, as a matter of urgency, of the measures taken by the Member State concerned, and where the Commission failed to ask that Member State whether that communication must be treated as the official provision of information under the regulation.

The Court referred to its findings in C-116/16 Fidenato, that a Member State’s power, provided by an EU act, to adopt emergency measures requires compliance with both the substantive conditions and procedural conditions laid down by that act (a requirement, I would add, which conversely also applies to the European Commission), but adds that a notification to the Commission under Article 71(1) of Regulation 1107/2009 requires only that the Member State concerned ‘officially informs’ that institution, without having to do so in a particular manner.

More generally, the Court emphasises the principle of sound administration imposed upon the EC, which explains its insistence on the EC having proactively to ensure the Member State concerned be aware of its obligations under the EU law concerned or indeed adjacent law. A certain parallel here may be made with the rules of civil procedure which require from those soliciting the courts that they approach the court with clean hands.

The Court in essence, I submit, finds that, the consequences for the Member State concerned in failing to meet the requirements for it to be able to make use of a safeguard provision in secondary law being so great, the conditions imposed on them must be met by a strict due diligence on behalf of the European Commission.

Of note is that the judgment does not entail any finding on the substantive legality of the French ban.

Geert.

 

 

Sodmilab. The Paris Court of Appeal on lois de police, Rome I, II and commercial agency.

Thank you Maxime Barba for flagging the judgment in the Paris Court of Appeal Sodmilab et al. (Text of the judgment in Maxime’s post). The case concerns the ending of a commercial relationship. Part of the contract may be qualified as agency with lex causae determined under the 1978 Hague Convention. On this issue, the Court of Appeal confirmed French law as lex causae.

Things get messy however with the determination of that part of the contract that qualifies as distribution (a mess echoing DES v Clarins), and on the application of Rome II.

The Court of Appeal first (at 59) discusses the qualification of A442-6 of the French Code du commerce, on unfair trading practices (abrupt ending of a commercial relationship), dismissing it as lois de police /overriding mandatory law under Article 9 Rome I. As I noted in my review of DES v Clarins, this is a topsy turvy application of Rome I. The qualification as lois de police is up to the Member States, within the confines of the definition in Rome I. The Court of Appeal holds that A442-6 only serves private interests, not the general economic interest, and therefore must not qualify under Rome I. Hitherto much of the French case-law and scholarship had argued that in protecting the stability of private interests, the Act ultimately serves the public interest.

Next (as noted: this should have come first), the Court reviews the application of A4f Rome I, the fall-back position for distribution contracts – which would have led to Algerian law as lex causae. It is unclear (62 ff) whether the Court reaches its conclusion as French law instead either as a confirmation of circumstantial (the court referring to invoicing currency etc.) but clear choice of law under Article 3, or the escape clause under Article 4(3), for that Article is mentioned, too.

Rome I’s structure is quite clear. Why it is not properly followed here is odd. That includes the oddity of discussing French law under Article 9 if the court had already confirmed French law as lex causae under A3 or 4.

Finally, corners are cut on Rome II, too. Re the abrupt ending of the relationship (at 66ff). French law again emerges victorious even if the general lex locus damni rule leads to Algerian law. The court does not quite clearly hold that on the basis of Article 4(3)’s escape clause, or circumstantial choice of law per A14. The court refers to ‘its findings above’ on contractual choice of law, however how such fuzzy implicit choice under Rome I is forceful enough to extend to choice of law under Rome II must not be posited without further consideration. Particularly seeing as Article 6 Rome II excludes choice of law for acts of unfair trading.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.11.2, Heading 2.2.11.2.9; Chapter 3, Heading 3.2.8, Heading 3.2.8.3; Chapter 4).

 

The French Constitutional Court on exporting environmental pollution and health hazards.

I seem to be having my environment cap firmly on this week so I am happy to thank Le Monde for flagging the judgment of the French Constitutional Court 2019-823 of 31 January in which it sanctioned (against the wishes of applicants, the Union des industries de la protection des plantes, essentially Bayer, Syngenta, BASF)  the Government’s ban on the manufacturing of and exportation of pesticides banned for use in France but hitherto available for export, mostly to Africa.

The case I would suggest is one that is also very suited to a business ethics class. Interestingly the Act also mentions that it applies to the degree it is not incompatible with WTO rules – the WTO is not addressed in the judgment.

Applicants’ case is grounded on the freedom of ‘enterprise’ or ‘commerce’, as expressed in the 1789 Déclaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen – but also the Decret d’Allarde 1791. To the mix of objectives to be balanced, the Court adds the protection of public health (Constitutional recital, 1946) and the Environment Charter 2004, from which the court deduces that environmental protection, as common heritage of mankind, is a Constitutionally ringfenced objective.

At 6 the Court without much ado posits that the French Government in pursuing environmental policy, justifiably may take into account the extraterritorial environmental consequences of activities on French soil.

Having referred to the EU ban on the use of the substances at issue, based on scientific considerations discussed at length in the run-up to the EU law at issue, the Court at 9-10 refers to the principle that it should not overzealous in second-guessing the exercise by Parliament of its balancing exercise. At 11, it notes that the 3-year transitionary period gives corporations ample transitionary time in line with their freedom of commerce.

To the Court, it’s all very much self-evident. For environmental policy and extraterritoriality, its findings are quite relevant.

Geert.

 

 

The French Supreme Court on fraus (abuse) and international adoptions.

Thank you Pailler Ludovic for signalling the French Supreme Court’s judgment in 18-24.261  A and X v et al B and Y et al. The Court annulled the Court of Appeal’s (Versailles) decision which had accepted for recognition and enforcement a Cameroonian judgment in a Cameroonian-French adoption case.

Legal basis for the refusal is Article 34 of the relevant 1974 FR- Cam Treaty. Specically, the classic ordre public international hurdle to recognition and enforcement: ‘Elle ne contient rien de contraire à l’ordre public de l’Etat où elle est invoquée ou aux principes de droit public applicables dans cet Etat.’

The Supreme Court held that absence of Agrément does not infringe French ordre public international (Agrément is required by French adoption law and needs to be sought by the prospective adoptant). Yet fraus (fraude à la loi) might and needs to be properly examined, which the Court of Appeal had failed to do. Suggestion is made in the case that the adoption was engineered with the sole purpose of facilitating the French rights of residence of the adopting father’s partner, who is the mother of the children.

The case emphasises the relevance of fraus omnia corrumpit. Whether of course fraus will be proven in the new proceedings before the Paris Court of Appeal remains to be seen.

Geert.

 

 

 

Two negatives a positive make? A brief report on anti anti-suit in (among others) continental courts.

A flag on anti anti-suit. Steve Ross reports here on the Paris Court of First Instance (Tribunal de Grande Instance) judgment in RG 19/59311 IPCom v Lenovo /Motorola granting a preliminary injunction.  IPCOM GmbH & Co. KG is an intellectual property rights licensing and technology R&D company. Lenovo/Motorola a telecommunications company. As Steve writes, the French Court held that it had jurisdiction over the case with regard to a patent infringement claim and ordered Lenovo to withdraw the motion for an anti-suit injunction which that company had brought before the US District Court of the Northern District of California in so far as it concerns the French part of the patent.

Steve notes (I have not read the actual judgment) that ‘according to the French Court, the international French public order (ordre public) does not recognise the validity of an anti-suit injunction, except where its purpose is to enforce a contractual jurisdiction clause or an arbitral clause. Under all other circumstances, anti-suit injunction proceedings have the effect of indirectly disregarding the exclusive power of each sovereign state to freely determine the international jurisdictional competence of their courts.’

Peter Bert also reports last week a German anti anti-suit injunction at the Courts in Munchen, also for IPR cases.

For progress in the US anti-suit (one ‘anti’ only) application see order here.

Juve Patent report (as does Peter) that the High Court, too, has issued a (partial) anti anti-suit in the case however I have not been able to locate the judgment.

Note that continental courts (see in the French case) finding that anti-suit in general infringes ordre public is an important instruction viz future relationships with UK court orders post Brexit (should the UK not follow EU civil procedure).

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 2, Heading 2.2.1.

International marriages: MP v ML: What happens in Vegas, did not happen at all.

A succinct post on the French Supreme Court judgment 18-19665 MP v ML of 19 September last. Thank you Hélène Péroz for alerting us to the judgment. A French couple, married in 1995, file for divorce in 2012 when the husband discovers his wife has been married before, in Las Vegas, 1981. He requests his marriage be declared invalid on the grounds of bigamy. To settle the ‘divorce’ the courts therefore need to first settle the incidental question or Vorfrage of prior marriage, much like in the archetypal Vorfrage judgment of  Schwebel v Unger.

Under French law consent to marriage is covered by the lex patriae which for both partners in this case is French. The Supreme Court confirms the lower courts’ discretion to find as a matter of fact whether or not there was such consent, which in casu they had found there was not on the basis of the wife having presented the Vegas trip to her friends as not being of real consequence; no banns of marriage having been published, no effort having been undertaken by the partners to have their Vegas ‘wedding’ registered in France, no reference to the marriage having been made at the time of registration of the birth of their child, and both partners having entered into relationships after the ‘marriage’.

Geert.

(Handbook of) EU private international law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 1, Heading 1.4.

 

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