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PARIS The French government has withdrawn a bill that would have introduced class-action-style lawsuits in France.
Parliament had been set to consider, in early February, the bill promised by President Jacques Chirac and championed by Minister of Finance Thierry Breton.
Business leaders, risk managers and insurers had fervently opposed the bill, which contained provisions to introduce French-style class actions, in which consumers would have to go through a four-step process to get compensation for small claims.
Under the proposals judges would only have heard complaints only for consumer goods linked to a contract, and only cases filed by government- approved consumer organizations, with damages capped at € 2,000.
The bill is no longer on Parliament's list of items to consider in their current session," said a spokesperson for Henri Cuq, the delegate for parliamentary relations under Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin.
The spokesperson said that "the bill was withdrawn based on a request by Minister of Health Xavier Bertrand, because he could not be present for the discussion in Parliament."
The spokesperson added that the decision was also influenced by Parliament's heavy load this session..
Consumer organizations condemned the withdrawal, while Mr. Breton said the bill would be re-presented in Parliament following presidential elections scheduled to begin in April.
The bill did not allow for lawyer contingency fees, punitive damages or civil jury trials. Actions for medical complaints, transportation accidents, or other personal injury or non-commercial disputes would not have been allowed.
At last week's conference of l'Association pour le Management des Risques et des Assurances de l'Entreprise in the southern city of Nantes, risk managers warned that the bill could have heavy consequences on business.