The commercial courts (Tribunal de commerce) belong to the French general court system. The powers, composition, and competence of commercial courts in France are determined by Chapter 7 of the French Commercial Code. Commercial courts exercise their powers throughout France, except for the regions of Alsace and Moselle, where the powers of commercial courts are exercised by the chambers of commerce of courts of general jurisdiction.
Benefits of commercial courts
One of the main advantages of commercial courts in France is the rather fast processing of cases, as well as the absence of large financial costs for the parties.
Moreover, arbitration is the most commonly used method of settling commercial disputes in international business relations. France has developed a robust legal system in favor of arbitration, especially in the case of international arbitration. Also, the state is a party to many international and European conventions.
The most prominent arbitration institution is the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). The French Arbitration Association and the Paris Mediation and Arbitration Center also offer their services. The Paris International Arbitration Chamber deals with a wide range of cases (investments, information technology, etc.). Paris is also home to specialized agencies such as the Paris Maritime Arbitration Chamber and the French Arbitration Center for Insurance and Reinsurance.
The good news for those planning to start domestic arbitration in France is the confidentiality of the process unless the parties have agreed otherwise. French law does not say anything about confidentiality concerning international arbitration.
Commercial court structure
In France, the commercial court is defined by article L.721-1 of the Commercial Code as a court of the first instance, composed of three elected judges and a secretary. The judges of commercial courts (juge consulaire) are entrepreneurs and, most often, managers of private enterprises. They are elected on a two-tier basis.
First, all entrepreneurs entered into a special register of entrepreneurs elect, the so-called. delegated representatives.
After that, the electoral college, which includes both delegated representatives, as well as current and former judges of commercial courts, elects the judges of commercial courts.
The judges are elected for a term of 4 years (after an initial probationary period of two years). Judges of commercial courts in France are allowed to serve a maximum of four consecutive terms.
The secretary of the commercial court is a civil servant and is appointed by the Minister of Justice, from January 27, 2016, the secretary is appointed after passing an additional competitive selection.
Sphere of activity of commercial courts
The French Commercial Courts hear commercial disputes between entrepreneurs, between entrepreneurs and commercial companies, disputes involving commercial banks, and disputes over commercial contracts and agreements.
An individual may also be a party to the dispute if he is the plaintiff. In this case, physical. a person has the right to choose to go to a commercial court or a court of general jurisdiction.
The decision of the commercial court is final and not subject to appeal if the amount of the dispute is less than 4,000 euros and, conversely, is subject to appeal if the amount of the dispute exceeds 4,000 euros. There are no separate special commercial courts of appeal in France.
If the amount of the dispute exceeds 4,000 euros, an appeal against the court’s decision is filed and considered by the Chambre commercial de la Cour d’Appel (Chambre commercial de la Cour d’Appel).
The Chamber consists of three judges: a chairman, a professionally appointed judge, and two judges selected from among businessmen-entrepreneurs. As for the cassation examination, a cassation appeal against a decision of a commercial court (up to 4,000 euros) or a decision of a commercial chamber of an appellate court is submitted and considered by the commercial chamber of the cassation court (Chambre commerciale de la Cour de Cassation).
The efficiency of commercial courts in France
Commercial judges (juges consulaires) are elected in contrast to professional judges (magistrats professionnels), who in turn are appointed. The difference lies in the fact that commercial court judges, elected from among their fellow entrepreneurs and business leaders, are the most competent in the economic and financial issues of enterprise management, as well as in making optimal decisions for enterprises to overcome the crisis and resolve current enterprise issues.
Besides, the independence of these judges is also guaranteed by their collegiality in making decisions (three judges are required to make any decision by a commercial court), which makes it possible to limit the risks of influence from the participants in the process.
Also, in France, the commercial court is the court of the first instance, and the parties have the opportunity to appeal against its decision in the commercial chamber of the appellate court (in case the amount of the dispute exceeds 4,000 euros).