Aware of the need to have an efficient legal tool in the current competitive environment of legal systems, France has finally decided to reform its contract law in the French Civil Code. After several years of intense discussions, the Ordinance no. 2016-131 of 10 February 2016 on contract law reform was adopted. The reform aims to adjust “the law to the needs of individuals and businesses”.

In essence, French contract law was derived from the French Civil Code in its 1804 version. Therefore, it was of the utmost importance to revise it in order to take into consideration the new social and economic realities.

To that end, the French government started a public consultation in 2015 which was particularly fruitful. More than 300 contributions have been gathered, from both academics and professionals, for the purpose of elaborating a conceptual, solid, efficient tool.

Thus, providing France with rules that are easier to read and more predictable, protective but efficient, rigorous but pragmatic, the Ordinance on contract law reform should promote the attractiveness of the French legal system.

The reform has three main objectives, likely to have practical consequences for the business community: legal security, efficiency and protection. Reinforcing legal security should allow companies to have a better understanding of and accessibility to contract law. Also, certain efficient business practices have been enshrined, and some mechanisms have been facilitated. Nevertheless, businesses should not lose sight of the fact that different measures aim to protect the weaker party to a contract.

Increasing legal security for better comprehension of the law

The first measure responding to this objective has been to amend the articles’ layout in the French Civil Code in favour of a structure which is more in line with the different steps of the life of a contract: the conclusion, the performance and the termination of a contract.

Jul-Sep 2016 issue

Jones Day