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Litigation in France: the difference between French and Dutch law

  • natasha

Dutch law is based on French law. There are several similarities between the two, but also some key differences. On 8th December 2020, the French Desk at Bierens Law gave a webinar following a request by the French Chamber of Commerce. During this webinar, we discussed the similarities and differences between French and Dutch law.

The webinar ''Legal proceedings, general conditions and insolvencies: Dutch & French perspectives'' deals with the general conditions, legal proceedings, and insolvencies under French and Dutch law. You can also review this here.

Going to court or staying at home

Have you initiated legal proceedings in France? Note that litigation in France is not the same as in the Netherlands. Did you know that for example, in France only lawyers can attend a court hearing? The idea is that the lawyer represents their clients on their behalf. Therefore, the French judge prefers to hear about the case directly from the lawyer. In the Netherlands however, the judge prefers both parties to be present and provide the facts and figures relating to the case.

Court fees in France

Besides the legal differences between French and Dutch law, there is also a difference between the court fees. For example, court fees in France are generally much lower than in the Netherlands. It may therefore be more advantageous to litigate in France than in the Netherlands.

Litigation during COVID-19

The restrictions due to COVID-19 regulations also differ between the two countries. This means that the way in which the French court deals with litigation procedures during COVID-19 differs compared to the Dutch court. As discussed in our previous webinar, during COVID-19, cases in the Netherlands were mainly processed either in writing or through a virtual hearing. Cases in France, however, were put on hold. Several courts in France now face a delay of almost 18 months.

Litigation in France: choice of forum in general terms and conditions

Due to the differences in litigation, it can be beneficial to agree on a competent court in advance. This way you know what is to be expected. In your general terms and conditions, you can establish the choice of forum. For example, you can agree that in the event of a dispute, litigation can take place in the Netherlands.

Have no agreements been made? In that case, European law is applicable, which will then determine in which country litigation should take place. This however does not always work in your favour. Under European law, it can be the case that you have to litigate in a French court under Dutch law.

As this is a complex situation, we advise you to agree on the choice of forum in advance. Our lawyers can advise you on this and help you draft your general terms and conditions.

Limiting risk in the event of a bankrupt French client

With your general terms and conditions, you can also ensure that you limit any risks if your customer is declared bankrupt. For example, you can agree in your general terms and conditions that you will deliver the goods under the retention of title. This can be done in France as well as in the Netherlands and must be agreed contractually. Did you know that Dutch law also has a non-contractual solution to retrieve goods? In some cases, it is possible to retrieve goods with the right of complaint.

More information about litigation in France or the Netherlands

Would you like more information about litigation in France or the Netherlands? Feel free to contact us. The French desk of Bierens Law will be happy to help you. Whether it concerns the screening of general terms and conditions or the recovery of your goods in the event of a bankrupt customer, we ensure that you can continue to do business in France or the Netherlands.

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