From: Philippe Verdy (email@example.com)
Date: Wed Jul 26 2006 - 05:17:12 CDT
From: "Stephane Bortzmeyer" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> On Wed, Jul 26, 2006 at 12:40:26AM +0200,
> JFC Morfin <email@example.com> wrote
> a message of 28 lines which said:
>> What is fun is that this is the law. Products sold in France to
>> French consumers must be documented and work in French. This does
>> not affect famous trade marks which mostly use international
> No one was ridiculous enough to require that all URLs advertised in
> France be written in correct French, with accents :-)
> Even the Académie Française did not (yet?) sue the ".fr" registry for
> forcing them to use http://www.academie-francaise.fr/ :-)
That's wrong. What the law requires is that the product must be sold with a usage guide in French for its main functions (it is not required to explain all in French, and the translation may be summary). The law does not require using accents, but requires that the text must be understandable using common terms; Note however that the law also fixes some legal definitions for some reserved terms which have a contractual importance (notably for terms that describe the product category and justifies its price). This is not specific to France, and similar rules exist in European directives, that have been adapted to each national law.
If French customers buy products that don't have any instructions for use in French, they can complain to the "DGCCRF" (Direction Générale de la Concurrence et de la Répression des Fraudes), with local presence in more than 200 cities, which will make inopinate controls directly to the reseller. In summer, this service is wellknown for its numerous controls on restaurants and food commerces to verify the conservation dates, the respect of rules of conservation, the temperature of fridges, the required training and qualification of the employees...
For example, some terms can be forbidden (the terminology "écran total" in French, or "total screen" or similar used on products to protect the skin against nocive UV from the sun has been discussed recently and forbidden, given that this gives a wrong indication to customers that may think that they are completely protected when using the product), and there are in each european country a public service that is in charge of verifying the indications on products and their conformance to the laws. Normally, foreign producers do not need to conform to these laws, but importers need to verify this, and if in doubt, should ask those service to test the conformance with the national law and regulation, especially regarding security, and effective conformance to the displayed labels.
There are also required prior security controls of all places accessible to the public, before it opens (they verify the accesses, the respect of norms against fire or exposure to chemical risks, or against local natural risks that have been identified). These local controls are quite strict. But there are also controls of imports by fiscal services (Douanes) throughout the territory and in all airports and harbours (controls on road is now rarely made on borders, but can be done everywhere, in cities or any road).
For instance, the CE conformance label means that the product may be sold throughout the European Free Trade Area, i.e. the EU and the EFTA, is assumed to have been verified by importers by asking to the manufacturers a copy of the certificate they got from a certification authority that delivers the label). CE labels are checked by various verification organizations that are authorized to deliver the labels. In the EU, you can get the CE label for any product that has been verified to conform with the laws of only one member country. However, there are some exceptions for some kind of dangerous products.
All this means that foreign manufacturers are not required to obey these rules, but it's up to the importer to make sure that the imported product will conform to the law before it is sold. Sellers on the Internet should also verify that their product will not be blocked before delivery: transporters know very well these issues, and should really inform the international sellers about what they must do before sending the products, or ask whever the product is legal in each country (for such verification, this is the country of delivery of the product, not the country of the paying customer, which is taken into account).
Well, suppose that a manufacturer does not want to create a translation in French of the usage notices. it will have difficulties to find importers for the products, or the manufacturer will get a bad reputation if it refuses to do that. As this issue basically concerns producs sold online on the Internet, it is also the same place (the Internet) that will severely note the manufacturer (and on the Internet, there is much enough competition and price comparators, so that customers can choose within products made by reputable manufacturers. But if a manufacturer gave false information on the Internet, his product deliveries will be tracked by the Douanes that will intercept them, and that will tax the importer, if known, or the transporter (even if it's a wellknown international transporter like UPS); both will then stop working in these conditions with the manufacturer, or will charge back the manufacturer for all fees they had to pay. Note that non conforming products will not be returned back: they are kep
t legally and destroyed, except for some expensive products (like cars) that may subsist in transit until they are modified to conform to the law (it will be nearly impossible for French customers to use the car if it does not have an official certificate approved by the Service of Mines which delivers the required label only to products that respect all regulation, including the usage notice.)
Many restrictions however are lefted for products sold between individuals, however they both assume the risk of the product being blocked on borders, or confiscated in case of non-conformance (and customers know that is possible for products that may expose them or others to safety risks).
Well, a manufacturer that does not know the rules for each market is not a good one, because it does not know his job. The issue regarding the required translation of usage notices is well known (not respecting it, is a fraud which exposes everyone in the selling and delivery chain not only to the confiscation of product but also to huge fees) and not so expensive to clear:
It's more expensive to satisfy to security restrictions and get the CE label from a certified verification organization; in many cases, most of the rules do exist also in the manufacturer country, and this country also has national services to help them export their products in a way that satisfies both countries and transit countries; France is also a major transit country for many countries in Europe, and ignoring French law is irresponsible for any company that wants to make products sold in the European market. But it's even more difficult to satisfy the requirements of importers whose buyers are extremely demanding and know how to use competition (remember that the buying power of large French distributors makes them be very powerful, and their demand about price, conditions of payments, guaranteed volumes, are much more costly to satisfy, and they operate their own and severe quality controls).
So the required translation should be seen as a feature of the product for the benefit of customers (a high quality documentation in French is not required by French law, but will be a added value for the product itself, including for other French speaking countries, as it really helps selling it to end-users or importers).
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