The proposals came as part of French Minister of Health Marisol Touraine’s National Health Bill, which if passed would extend class actions – where a group of people in similar circumstances can collectively sue another party – to claims involving injuries to health. The draft health bill followed a French consumer act, Loi Hamon, which saw a class action procedure for consumer protection and antitrust claims written into law in March, something international law firm Shook Hardy & Bacon called “troubling”.
Marc Shelley, a partner at Shook Hardy & Bacon’s Geneva office, told FoodNavigator if the French government did not fine tune its proposals to ensure it was fair to both consumers and companies and backed up with appropriate legal provisions, consequences could include raised prices and stifled innovation.
As the health bill currently stands it would most likely only apply to food and drink manufacturers marketing their products for health purposes. However, Shelley said the changes were part of a general trend in Europe buoyed by recommendations from the European Commission that member states introduced class action procedures into their laws and could therefore see big implications for the sector in the future. Similar moves have been seen in elsewhere.
Before the consumer law was announced, France did not have a collective redress mechanism.
Shelley said the French government had been keen to pass the consumer law so played it conservative with a restricted scope to include labelling and the legal and contractual obligations only and exclude personal injuries. At the time, a 30-month timeline was set to evaluate how the consumer law and class action provision was operating before deciding whether to expand. However this latest addition to the separate health bill now sees the inclusion of personal injury claims, albeit for specific health care products only.