The use of French is compulsory in all designations, offers, presentations, user manuals, and terms of service for a product or service. In addition, all invoices and receipts must also be in French. The objective of this measure is to provide information, consumer protection, and enable the individual to buy and use a product or service while having complete knowledge of the product’s nature and warranty.
The Act of August 4, 1994, and its implementing regulations have established that the use of French language is a fundamental element of the heritage of France. The purpose of the law is the protection of the French language; the obligations apply without the need to distinguish whether the buyer is an individual or a professional.
These requirements are part of the French Code of Consumption “Code de la Consommation”. A partial list of French language requirements relevant to U.S. businesses operating in France includes:
The use of French is compulsory in trade relations and labor relations, without, however, prohibiting the use of recognized foreign words or phrases.
Contracts which are parts of legal entities under public or private persons performing a public service are written in French regardless of their purpose and form.
Job offers in the press, labor contracts, and other documents relating to social relations within the company are required to be written in French.
Labeling of food, a decree of 1 August 2002 complement Article R. 112-8 indicating that the labeling may be contained in one or more other languages, in addition to French.
Whenever mentions, ads, and inscriptions are supplemented by one or more translations, the French presentation should be as legible, audible, or intelligible as the presentation of foreign languages.
All labeling must be easily understandable, written in French with no abbreviations other than those prescribed by the regulations or international conventions. They must be listed in a conspicuous place and to be visible, clearly legible, and indelible. They should in no way be hidden, obscured, or interrupted by other written or pictorial content.
Act No. 94-665 of 4 August 1994 on the use of the French language.
Decree No. 95-240 of 3 March 1995 taken for the implementation of Law No. 94-665 of 4 August 1994 on the use of French. Circular of 19 March 1996 concerning the application of Law No. 94-665 of 4 August 1994 on the use of French.
In regard to textile labeling, the Court of Cassation, in a ruling dated November 14, 2000, agreed that the information labels displaying pictograms, where warnings were essential for the consumer, must be written in French. However, in an attempt to not obstruct the free movement of goods, specific products can be accompanied by statements in a foreign language not translated into French as long as the drawings, symbols, pictograms, or statements are of equivalent or complementary subject and are not likely to mislead the consumer. The specific products included are items that have inscriptions, are printed or woven, in a foreign language, contain words and phrases entered in the current language, or resulted from international conventions (i.e., off / on, made in …, copyright, etc.) which are used alongside other means of consumer information, such as symbols or icons.
There is a broad array of EU legislation pertaining to the marking, labeling and packaging of products, with neither an “umbrella” law covering all goods nor any central directory containing information on marking, labeling and packaging requirements. This overview is meant to provide the reader with a general introduction to the multitude of marking, labeling and packaging requirements or marketing tools to be found in the EU.
More information on marks, labels and legislation can be found in the European Union Commercial guide at https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/eu-labelingmarking-requirements