French Consumer Group Sues Netflix

'Orange Is the New Black'

It calls the company's fall launch in France "entirely positive" for the consumer but takes issue with the fine print of subscriber contracts

A French consumer rights group has filed a lawsuit against U.S. streaming video giant Netflix, which launched in the country this fall, for what it says are violations of French law.

The Confederation for Consumption, Housing, Living and Environment (CLCV), the country's largest consumer defense organization, filed its case Monday in Paris. Though the group praised Netflix for increasing competition among pay TV providers in France, it took issue with certain points in the fine print of contracts offered to French consumers when the company launched in the country as part of a pan-European rollout in mid-September.

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Calling Netflix's entry into France "entirely positive for the consumer," the CLCV said it hopes that the SVOD service will spur competition in the pay TV business to improve service and lower prices. "Pay TV is still governed by a small number of players with high subscription costs," the group said in a statement, adding: "However, while supporting the development of competition, our association remains vigilant in regards to respect for consumer rights."

In the first of its three points of criticism, CLCV takes issue with a clause in which Netflix reserves the right to modify the terms of the contract without notifying customers. Under French law, companies must notify the customer of any changes and give them the option to opt out without penalty, it said.

CLCV's second complaint is that Netflix doesn't guarantee the quality of video on the screen, which the group says would not allow consumers to negotiate compensation or refunds if they are not satisfied.

Lastly, the group points out that some links of the precontractual information and conditions of use are written in English or link to English pages, specifically information about gift subscriptions and pages on copyright and intellectual property.

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"Before making the decision to sign a contract, a consumer has a legitimate expectation to be able to access the details of the contract so that they can make informed choices," the group said. The English links "complicate the task of the subscriber who wants to read the whole contract."

Netflix, whose terms state that it abides by local laws in each jurisdiction, is examining the lawsuit. "We have no immediate comment on the specifics of the CLCV complaints, but we are looking into them," a spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. "We strive to offer the best possible service to our customers, including streaming quality and the ability to cancel anytime."

The service has reached over 100,000 subscribers so far in France.

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