COMPETITION • FRENCH LAW • RESTRICTIVE PRACTICES
Created by the NRE Law of May 15, 2001 and placed under the authority of the Minister of the Economy, the Commission d’examen des pratiques commerciales (CEPC) is seen as a compromise between a quasi-judicial body, like the Competition Authority, and a simple observatory, which was initially intended. It is composed of one parliamentarian and one senator as well as 24 full members and 16 deputy members (Commercial Code, Art. D. 440-2). They include three judges from the administrative or judicial courts, including the vice-chairman of the commission if the chairman is not a judge; eight members representing the agricultural and fisheries production and processing sectors, as well as the industrial and artisanal sectors and processors; eight members representing wholesalers and distributors, chosen from professional organizations or undertakings; two persons qualified in problems relating to industrial/commercial relations; three representatives of the Administration: the director general of competition, consumer affairs and fraud repression, the CEO of undertakings, or their representatives, and the director general of agricultural, agri-food and territorial policies, or his/her representative. The chairman of the commission is appointed from among its members by decree.
This commission has the task of monitoring commercial practices, invoicing and contracts between producers, suppliers and retailers. As an advisory body, the CEPC can also give opinions or make recommendations on issues, commercial or advertising documents and commercial practices between producers, suppliers and retailers, without such acts being binding. The work of the CEPC nevertheless has a certain influence on commercial relations: producers and distributors often refer to it to substantiate their points of view or to challenge the positions of their trading partners. Its work also contributes to academic, administrative and legislative debate.
It may take up cases on its own initiative or at the request of the Minister of the Economy; the minister of the economic sector concerned; the President of the Competition Authority; any legal entity (in particular professional or trade union organizations, consumer associations, chambers of commerce or agriculture); any producer, supplier or reseller who is a victim, i.e., who considers itself to have been harmed by a commercial practice. The opinions adopted within this framework are published at the discretion of the Commission. The Commission may also be asked by the courts to give its opinion on practices provided for in Title IV of Book IV of the Commercial Code, which have been identified in the cases referred to it. The Commission delivers its opinion within a maximum time-limit of four months from the date of referral. The opinion is not binding on the court and is published after the decision rendered by the court that referred the matter to it for an opinion.
In addition, the Commission draws up an annual activity report which is made public.