Avocat en droit de la concurrence

As a business owner, you are faced with a situation where one of your competitors openly criticizes your products or services.
You suspect or have noticed that he is trying to divert your customers or poach your employees.
You have considered that your competitor imitates your products, their presentations or your communication elements.
One of your competitors does not respect a law or a regulation.

You are probably the victim of unfair competition and you are wondering about the means of action at your disposal to put a stop to these actions. ETNA's lawyers and jurists specialize in competition law in Paris, Montpellier and Aix-en-Provence and will help you determine the best strategy to protect your work.

Unfair competition occurs when a business engages in unethical behavior and disrupts natural competition.

It is defined as a set of unfair and illicit commercial practices carried out by a company with the aim of obtaining an unfair competitive advantage vis-à-vis its competitors.

Acts of unfair competition are sanctioned in the field of criminal liability and actions defined by the Commercial Code or the Consumer Code.

It is then necessary to demonstrate a fault, damage and causation between the fault and the damage suffered.

As an actor in economic life, the company victim of unfair competition will most often suffer financial damage, resulting in a loss of turnover due to a loss of customers. However, it is also possible that it damages the image and reputation of the company.

If you think you are the victim of an act of unfair competition, but you do not know what to do, how to prove it and what to ask, our lawyers specializing in unfair competition are there to support you at the first signs. They will be able to rely on case law to find similar cases of companies convicted of unfair competition in order to defend your rights, knowing that case law abounds in this area.

Behaviors traditionally constituting unfair competition: denigration, misappropriation of customers and imitation.

Added to this today is unfair competition by breach of the law.

Do you wonder about behaviors that fall under unfair competition such as denigration, parasitism, disorganization and imitation? We propose here a definition of these notions as well as examples to better understand them.

When it comes to unfair competition, disparagement is one of the most damaging behaviors for a business. It occurs when one of your competitors deliberately spreads false information about your company, your products or your services with the aim of discrediting you with the public.

Smearing is a malicious action intended to turn away your customers or damage your reputation. It can take different forms, such as spreading false rumours, posting defamatory comments online, or spreading fake reviews on social media.

The consequences of denigration
The consequences of disparagement on your business can be serious. By discrediting your reputation, your competitors seek to make you lose customers and business opportunities. This can lead to a drop in your turnover, a loss of trust from your loyal customers and damage to your brand image.

Confusion usually results from imitation. When a competing company uses a sign or trade name similar to yours, thus creating confusion in the minds of customers, this constitutes an act of unfair competition by confusion.

Unfair competition also makes it possible to sanction imitation of advertising and confusion about the products or services of a company in the context of the sale or manufacture of the products.

The means used to create confusion are varied; use of the patronymic name to market an identical product manufactured by a competing company in order to create confusion and benefit from the notoriety acquired by the first manufacturer, imitation of reprehensible advertisements when it is likely to create confusion in the minds of customers with competing establishments or products.

This type of act of unfair competition is often similar to counterfeiting.

It occurs when one of your competitors seeks to deprive you of your customers by using unfair means to attract them to their own products or services.

Customer capture can take many forms, such as stealing or illegally exploiting your customer or supplier lists, systematically soliciting your customers using e-coupons or other promotional tools, or even using misinformation tactics to divert your customers to competing alternatives.

The consequences of client diversion
Customer hijacking can have devastating consequences for your business. Not only do you risk losing loyal customers, but it can also affect your revenue, reputation, and market position. This is an unfair practice that violates the rules of fair competition and can jeopardize the sustainability of your business.

Unfair competition by violation of the law occurs when companies break established rules and laws in the course of their competitive activities. This gives these companies an unfair advantage over their competitors who strictly adhere to the regulations in force. Here are some common examples of unfair competition by violation of the law:

  • Failure to comply with a legal or regulatory obligation: A company that does not comply with safety regulations in the manufacture of its products or the provision of its services can compromise the health and safety of consumers. Similarly, a company that does not comply with the GDPR (personal data) is accountable for an act of unfair competition. This creates an unfair advantage by reducing production costs, but also harms fair competition.
  • Use of a label or certification: the fact of claiming a quality or indicating that the products or services would benefit from official recognition, in an undue manner. One will think for example of BIO marking.
  • Misleading advertising: The dissemination of false or misleading information with the aim of attracting customers is also a form of unfair competition. This can include posting false statements about product features, false claims about service quality, or making unfair comparisons with competitors.
  • Predatory pricing practices: A company that deliberately sets excessively low prices in order to eliminate competition and monopolize the market can be accused of predatory pricing practices. This is detrimental to competitors who cannot maintain such low prices without incurring significant financial losses.
  • Industrial espionage: Industrial espionage, which consists of illegally obtaining confidential information from a competing company, such as trade secrets, product development plans or marketing strategies, is a common practice of unfair competition. This gives the spying company an unfair advantage in using confidential information to make strategic decisions. The violation of business secrets may also constitute an act of unfair competition.

These examples underscore the importance of compliance with fair competition laws and regulations. Companies that engage in such practices not only risk legal action, but also significant damage to their reputation. It is essential to promote fair competition and preserve market integrity for the benefit of all players involved.

The unfair competition lawyer helps you to study the advisability of legal action on the basis of the facts.

Before any trial, the unfair competition lawyer helps you to collect the necessary evidence. He can carry out particularly effective procedures, in particular by requesting the President of the Court to appoint a bailiff. If necessary, the bailiff will be able to go to your competitor's premises without informing him and proceed to seizures. He can then represent you and defend your interests in court.

As a first step, we provide advice to our clients on the most effective measures to prove unfair commercial practices of a competing company. This may include the production of bailiff's reports in store or on the Internet, depending on the nature of the practices in question.

In some cases, to demonstrate the extent of unfair behavior, we ask the competent court to issue an order authorizing investigative measures in futurum (article 145 of the Code of Civil Procedure). These measures often prove to be very effective.

If the Court allows it, a bailiff can then go to the head office or to the establishments of the competing company in order to collect evidence of unfair competition and illicit diversion of customers.

As a victim of unfair competition, you wonder what sanctions can be taken against your competitor. Initiating an action for unfair competition allows first of all to quickly put an end to the behavior of your competitor. In some cases, a summary action may be considered.

You can also claim damages in order to obtain compensation for the damage suffered. It is important to accurately assess the amount of the damage, based in particular on accounting documents demonstrating the loss of turnover, in order to justify your claim.

In some cases, acts of unfair competition may also be associated with acts of infringement. The two actions can then be taken simultaneously to sanction in a complementary way the faulty behavior of your competitor. In this case, you can also consider criminal actions.

If you are the victim of unfair behavior, we can represent you to act against unfair competition and obtain compensation for the damage suffered by your company. Our lawyers will help you build a solid case to prove the existence of acts of unfair competition, determine the duration of these acts and establish and quantify the extent of the damage.