COMPETITION • FRENCH LAW • PRICE TRANSPARENCY
Perishable agricultural products are subject to a special arrangement in order to protect small producers from the practices of large retailers. Therefore, Articles L. 441-11, II, 1° to 4° (former Article L. 443-1) of the Commercial Code sets payment terms that are shorter than those set by general law for certain products without any contractual derogation. Under penalty of an administrative fine, these deadlines may not exceed:
- 30 days from the end of the delivery period for the purchase of perishable food products and frozen or deep-frozen meats, frozen fish, ready meals and preserves made from perishable food products, with the exception of purchases of seasonal products under integration contracts concluded in the fruit and vegetables sector pursuant to Articles L. 326-1 to L. 326-3 of the Rural and Maritime Fisheries Code;
- 20 days after the delivery day for purchases of live cattle intended for consumption and derived fresh meats;
- 30 days after the end of the month of delivery for purchases of alcoholic beverages subject to consumption duties provided for in Article 403 of the General Tax Code;
- 45 days from the end of the month or sixty days after the date of issue of the invoice for the purchase of grapes and grape must for the production of wines and alcoholic beverages subject to the circulation duties provided for in Article 438 of the General Tax Code, except derogating provisions in inter-branch decisions taken in application of the Law of 12 April 1941 establishing an inter-branch committee for Champagne wine; or in inter-branch agreements made in application of Book VI of the Rural and Maritime Fisheries Code and made mandatory by way of regulation to all operators on the metropolitan territory.
Failure to comply with these provisions is punishable by an administrative fine not exceeding EUR 75,000 for a natural person and EUR 2 million for a legal entity, the amount of which may be doubled in the event of repeated violations within two years from the date on which the first sanction decision became final (Article L. 441-16).
Moreover, perishable agricultural products are not subject to the written agreement provided for in Article L. 441-3 (former Article L. 441-7) of the Commercial Code, but to Article L. 443-2 (former Article L. 441-2-1), which already provides for the drafting of a written agreement that includes volume commitments, price determination methods, and the setting of a price, as well as the price advantages granted to the distributor. This special scheme, which is designed to prevent distributors from benefiting from discounts, reductions and rebates or providing remuneration for services rendered on the occasion of resale, which are likely to promote the marketing of the supplier’s products or services and which do not fall within the scope of buying and selling obligations, or of services having a distinct purpose without any commitment on their part, concerns fruit and vegetables, with the exception of ware potatoes, intended to be sold fresh to the consumer, honey, eggs and fresh, frozen or deep-frozen poultry and rabbit meat. Any infringement of the provisions of Article L. 443-2 is punishable by a fine of EUR 15,000 for a natural person and EUR 75,000 for a legal entity.