In a ruling handed down on February 1, the First Civil Chamber of the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation) reiterates that it is up to the professional vendor to prove that he has provided his customer with all the legal information required for a sales contract concluded by door-to-door sales. The burden of proof lies with him in this type of off-premises contract.
Abusive door-to-door selling
In this case, following a door-to-door sales pitch, individuals purchased a heat pump and a thermodynamic water heater financed on credit. Noting the irregularity of the order form and the failure to achieve the promised savings, they summoned the seller and the bank to cancel the sales and credit contracts. During the proceedings, the seller was placed under compulsory liquidation.
Initially, the Court of Appeal rejected the borrowers' claims, ruling that it was up to them to provide a complete copy of the purchase order. Without this, the judges considered it impossible to verify the legality of the transaction. Following this decision, the purchasers decided to appeal to the French Supreme Court.
In a ruling handed down on February 1, 2023, the First Civil Chamber of the French Supreme Court (Cour de cassation) overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal, considering that it had reversed the burden of proof. In accordance with articles L 221-5 and L 221-7 of the French Consumer Code, the Court recalls thatit is up to the seller, and not the consumer, to prove the regularity of the order form.
More specifically, the professional must demonstrate that he has complied with the legal information obligations to which he is subject.
Case law applicable to all disputes
The number of disputes concerning off-premises contracts has increased in recent years. Contracts concluded following door-to-door canvassing are particularly concerned.
Until now, customers who contested the validity of a contract on the grounds that they had not received all the legal information often had to provide proof. In such cases, judges generally ruled in favor of the professional.
The Court of Cassation has changed the situation, stating that it is up to the professional to prove that he has provided his customer with all the information required for the contract. This case law will apply to all disputes relating to the provision of contractual information between a professional and an individual. In other words, thanks to this ruling, consumers will be able to contest the legality of a contract even if they do not possess all the documents provided by the professional.
For his part, the seller must be able to produce the entire agreement to demonstrate compliance with the many rules, particularly those concerning information, imposed on him by the French Consumer Code.