It’s never pleasant to make a complaint in any language, but when you are trying to put your point forward with a limited vocabulary and knowledge of your rights, it is particularly frustrating.
More than a third of the working population of France is a ‘fonctionnaire’, a civil servant.
Unfortunately, they have a bit of a reputation for zealous form filling, red tape and making life difficult and complicated, (not all – there are many thoughtful and efficient fonctionnaires in the system too) and can easily get the better of you if you don’t have a bit of fore-knowledge.
French law is so complex that they often don’t actually know the answer to your enquiry themselves, but some will bend over backward to find you a solution! (Whilst many others won’t!)
Most problems encountered can be resolved amicably (and free of charge – remember that legal action is time consuming and expensive) simply by complaining to the supplier, manufacturer or distributor of the product or the service provider concerned.
Steps to take before considering legal action
☛ Send your complaint to the trader by registered letter (lettre recommandée) with proof of receipt. Make sure that you keep personal copies of all correspondence
☛ If the dispute is with a large national company (France Telecom, postal services, health, public transport…..,) ask if they have a mediator (médiateur or conciliateur) whose job it is to deal with disputes. Of course, bear in mind that they may not necessarily be impartial!.
Some of the main ones are….. (correct at time of writing but do bear in mind that emails and tel numbers are constantly changing)
Fédération française des sociétés d’assurances
26, boulevard Haussmann, 75311 Paris Cedex 09
Web : http://www.ffsa.fr
44 Boulevard de Vaugirard F 407
75757 PARIS CEDEX 15
Tel.: +33 (0)1 55 44 02 61 ou +33 (0)1 55 44 02 66
Fax: +33 (0)1 55 44 02 43
Web: http://www.laposte.fr (section: ’nous connaître’ : le Médiateur du group La Poste)
Le médiateur EDF
75804 PARIS CEDEX 08
Tel.: +33 (0)1 40 42 23 35
Fax: +33 (0)1 40 42 10 03
Mediateur de la SNCF
66, rue de Rome, 75008 Paris
Tel.: +33 (0)1 53 25 38 08
Fax: +33 (0)1 53 25 38 19
54 Quai de la Rapée
75599 Paris Cedex 12
Tel.: +33 (0)1 58 78 36 46
Fax: +33 (0)1 58 76 45 05
75829 Paris Cedex 17
Commission Paritaire de Médiation de la Vente Directe
11, avenue de Président Kennedy, 75016 Paris
Tel.: +33 (0)1 45 15 30 00
Fax: +33 (0)1 42 15 30 90
☛ Write to (or visit) your local consumer association who can inform you about your rights, and assist you in settling your dispute with a trader or service provider.
For this region, visit the ‘Maison d’Accès au Droit’ (MAD) in Perpignan (rue de la savonnerie, Place Carola, 66000 Perpignan) open from Monday – Friday 8h00 – 12h00 and 14h00 – 17h00 Tel : 04 68 66 34 56
They will help and advise you, and where necessary pass your case on to the relevant parties who will try to find a solution. The service is free and confidential.
☛ Download a European consumer complaint form (formulaire européen de réclamation pour le consommateur) from http://ec.europa.eu/consumers This form, in 11 languages, has been designed to guide consumers in formulating their claims via a multiple-choice lists of responses. Use it instead of a letter of complaint, always bearing in mind that it could be used in evidence if the case comes to court.
☛ Your final step before taking actual legal action is the legal conciliator (conciliateur de justice), a volunteer appointed by the court of appeal judge try to settle disputes between consumer and trader out of court. (Contact details available in town halls or the magistrates’ court (tribunal d’instance) in your area).
Je voudrais… (chuh voodray…)
- If the product has a hidden defect (“vice caché”) which renders the product unfit for the use for which it is intended, a replacement, a partial or total refund, or the cancellation of the whole contract can be obtained.
- If the product does not conform to its description, the consumer can demand the repair or replacement of the good
- If the product causes damage because it is defective, the trader is responsible for damage caused.
- Where sales (soldes) are concerned,the shopkeeper is still obliged to exchange or reimburse faulty goods unless a specific fault was pointed out as the reason for its sale price.
ACCEPTING A CREDIT NOTE (un AVOIR)
After paying for a product, you change your mind although it is not faulty. Traders are not obliged to take back or cancel the order but may agree to give you a credit note.
However, if the seller is at fault (defective merchandise, late delivery, etc), you are not obliged to accept this arrangement and can insist on your money back.