Is the use of the French language obligatory in business contracts in France?
If you happen to be a business owner in France whose sole or even primary market is UK (or other non-French) nationals then it would not be surprising that you used conducted your commercial relations in English.
The English language may also be the only one used with other clients and suppliers outside of France.
In the event that a legal dispute arises in France, the question arises as to whether such contracts are enforceable?
The issue was one that was recently considered by the Commission d’examen des pratiques commerciales (CEPC)
, an advisory body to the government, whose role is to advise on commercial practices in operation in France.
According the CPEC there is very little primary legislation on the issue, although a law dating from 1994 stipulates that employment contracts and contracts for services provided to the public sector must be in the French language.
As a result they considered that use of the French language was not obligatory in commercial relations between those in the private sector and in with consumers.
However, they point out that as the legal process in a French court takes place solely in the French language, only those documents submitted in French could be used as evidence in any dispute.
This would require that all documents to be considered by the court would need to be translated by an accredited translator -
a traducteur assermenté
In support of their advice, the CEPC point out that in a 2006 hearing in the Court of Appeal in Paris, the judges ruled that « seules les pièces rédigées ou traduites en langue française doivent être soumises au juge, peu important que les parties maîtrisent toutes deux parfaitement la langue anglaise qu’elles ont employée pour communiquer entre elles
The Supreme Court in France has equally ruled that they were not prepared to consider evidence submitted in any other language than French.
So, in short, although it is permissible in France to use the English language in commercial relations, if you seek enforcement in the French courts the documents will all need to be in French.