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New Obligations for Online Platforms Targeting French Consumers, Effective January 1, 2018

Comes January 1, 2018, online platforms targeting French consumers will face a whole new set of obligations. 

Back in September of last year we described in another article on this blog the main measures that resulted from the adoption of the new French Digital Law, also known as “Loi Lemaire”: https://www.transatlantic-lawyer.com/2016/09/france-the-new-digital-law-is-adopted/.

Amongst these measures, the new French law imposes a series of new obligations upon website operators and websites allowing their users to publish online reviews. Due to the French Presidential elections in May, the governmental decrees that implement these new obligations into French law did not get published in the Official Journal until October 5, 2017. They are effective on January 1, 2018, which does not leave much time for website operators to adapt their terms of use and online terms of sale to comply with the law.

The Loi Lemaire addresses the issue of the transparency of the information that is shared with consumers via online platforms. As a matter of fact, since October 7, 2016 the French Consumer Code imposes on platforms an obligation to deliver to their users a fair and transparent level of information regarding the terms of use of the services they offer. The two governmental decrees (#2017-1434 and #2017-1436) that were published in October describe the means and content of that information. 

The information must be made available through a dedicated and easily accessible section of the website, and from every page. 

Specifically, marketplaces will need to include information on the conditions of referencing of the products and services they offer, the criteria they use by default to classify their different offers, and the parameters for doing so. If the classification is influenced by some third party payment or share ownership element this would also need to be disclosed.

Websites connecting suppliers and consumers of products and services will need to state the status of the persons authorized to make an offer, and whether they are professionals or consumers. They will also need to include a description of the intermediary service they offer and whether they enable the confusion of sales, leases, services engagements, etc. via the platform. If there is a cost to using the intermediation service, they will need to state the price and its method of calculation when it must be borne by the consumer. They will need to also describe the payment mechanism and any management fees, whether such fees, if any, are processed by the website operator directly or via a third-party processor, whether the platform offers any insurance product, and how any disputes are being resolved.

Websites offering users to publish online reviews will need to state whether any payment for such reviews is due, and the maximum period of publication and storing of the reviews. When websites monitor the reviews they will have to describe the type of monitoring they perform, say whether the reviews or their method of publication can be amended, and what may trigger a decision by the website operator to take down a review.

So, what should you do in the week or so that is left before these new obligations come into effect?

First, perform a compliance audit of your website and current terms of use / online sales terms and conditions as against the new requirements.

Second, if needed, amend your website and terms of service to bring them in conformity with the new obligations.

Last but not least, get your French consumers to accept the modified terms prior to their effective date, and in any event prior to them making any purchase or posting of a review on your website.

Oh, and by the way, in case of violation, fines of up to 375,000 euros can be imposed!

Time is of the essence!

If you need any additional information or assistance to ensure you comply with your new obligations under French law, don’t wait! Give us a call.