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30 Mar 2022

Sherpa & ActionAid France

Samsung case on deceptive commercial practices grounds: French Supreme Court confirms inadmissibility of the CSOs’ claim

Very present in Asia, Samsung boasts of being a socially responsible corporate citizen in widely distributed communication materials. However, it has been accused in numerous reports of serious violations of workers’ rights in its factories in China, Korea and Vietnam. Investigations carried out by several NGOs on the field have shown that workers, mainly women, are facing serious health risks due to chronic exposure to toxic products.

Faced with the flagrant difference between these ethical commitments and the reality of the employees’ working conditions, Sherpa and ActionAid France filed a complaint, considering that this commercial strategy amounted to fairwashing and constituted a deceptive commercial practice. After its indictment, Samsung France, subsidiary of Samsung Electronics Co. Lrd, had contested the possibility for the CSOs to take legal action on this ground, pointing out that they did not have the approval specifically required in consumer cases. The appeal judges declared their claim inadmissible and annulled the indictment of Samsung France. The CSOs appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Court has just confirmed the previous decision. Judges even went a bit further : by ruling that the appeal to the supreme court is not open, and by condemning the CSOs to pay part of Samsung’s legal costs, they implicitly signal that the solution is now established...

Since criminal proceedings for deceptive commercial practices seem to be reserved for a limited number of NGOs with special approval, this decision only confirms that multinationals can profit, without too much concern, from CSR marketing campaigns concerning ethical commitments that they do not respect in practice.

However, all hope is not lost: the complaint filed against Samsung on the same legal ground in 2021 by UFC-Que choisir, a French consumer organisation approved for those cases, is still ongoing and could lead to a court ruling...