COMPETITION • FRENCH LAW • UNFAIR COMPETITION
The rules protecting the consumer against deception or unfair behavior by certain professionals also protect competitors who do not use the same methods. Failure to comply with the rules constitutes an act of disruption, and therefore unfair competition, with respect to those who do comply with the rules. The Consumer Code transposes Directive No 2005/29 of 11 May 2005 relating to unfair commercial practices. Article L. 121-1 prohibits practices that are contrary to the requirements of professional diligence and that are likely to materially alter the economic behavior of the consumer. In particular, the misleading commercial practices referred to in Articles L. 121-2 to L. 121-4 constitute unfair commercial practices.
Advertising which is liable to mislead the consumer as to a trader belonging to a distribution network can also constitute an offense. This is the case where the advertiser creates confusion as to his status as an exclusive distributor in a sector which has been attributed to another network dealer so as to redirect potential customers to his business to the detriment of the legitimate network dealer. Garages or distributors outside the network must also not imply in their advertising and displays that they are members of a network. On the other hand, an advertisement by a non-network reseller of new vehicles claiming that the vehicles are under manufacturer’s warranty does not constitute an act of disruption insofar as the vehicles have been acquired from network members and as such the warranty is effectively valid. However, the offense is established if the non-authorized dealer willfully omits to inform consumers of the absence of warranty for vehicles which are covered when sold by authorized distributors. In addition, a garage does not commit an act of unfair competition when it simply affixes the term “maintenance” followed by the name of the manufacturer on the front of its premises.