Service of Process in France from Abroad (Non-EU)

By | June 29, 2011

How to serve international legal documents in France. Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-Judicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters.

Process Server in France

The 15 November 1965 Hague Convention on Service Abroad of Judicial and Extra-Judicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters sets several options for service of process. So does EC Regulation 1393/2007. These options include, inter-alia:

– Service through Central Authority;
– Direct service through local process server; 

Service through Central Authority. The Hague Convention’s public channel is time-consuming, since it is processed through the Government’s Administration. No option for expedited service exists. The Public Service channel is free of charge and has no taxes, but you must arrange for the paperwork to be translated into French, pay a Court bailiff’s fees and any other disbursements, including Value Added Tax. The contents of your documents are inspected by a French State’s representative for legality and conformity to internal laws and therefore your paperwork is not kept strictly confidential.

If using the centralised channel, one must bear in mind that all documents are, in principle, to be translated into French by a Certified Court translator. Pursuant to article 5 of the Convention, if the documents being served are not translated, service can be denied. In addition, it is common for the Defendant to be given the option of refusing service due to lack of translation and, in that instance, documents would not be served. Documents must be accepted voluntarily by the defendant or your efforts will be lost.

Direct service is preferable, because it is faster, usually less expensive (it does not requires translation as expressly allowed by Article 688.6 of the New Code of Civil Procedure), the documents will not be submitted to inspection by French Judicial authorities and will be kept confidential

It is essential to bear in mind that private agent service by a non-qualified professional may be quashed in the originating Court and any judgment obtained on the basis of service by a non-qualified person may be unenforceable, or may be voidable, because it is illegal under French law.

Using the services of a local English-speaking attorney offers many advantages: Your documents come directly to us and to our network of selected local licensed process servers, thus saving you time and costs. We will provide you with a Proof of Service in the form of an Affidavit, in English, at no extra cost.

While The Hague Convention permits service by government-to-government, Article 5 (b) permits service of process in the manner proscribed in the laws of the country where service is to be effected. As any Central Authority (government-to-government) services are generally slow and the feedback even slower, it is may be prudent to effect service of the papers in France using a French huissier (a French bailiff).

Unless legal counsel of the Non-French Plaintiff is accustomed to selecting and working with French huissiers (French bailiffs), the use of local French counsel is a justified added expense.

It is our experience that many summons prepared by able off-shore legal counsel contain omissions which leave them open to attack in an action in exequatur. Thus, the participation of French counsel in the preparation of any summons and complaint is recommended.

Language of Documents and Translations

Assuming that the original summons is not in French, it is recommended that a translation be attached, as the French Defendant may otherwise successfully claim that the service was not valid by invoking the terms of Article 688-6 of the French “Code of Civil Procedure”.

French bailiffs (huissiers de justice) have a statutory monopoly on the right to effect service of process in France.  When a French bailiff serves a summon notifying a person or a corporation in France that he/it has been sued in France or in another county, such process server must follow certain statutory requirement. The most important statutory provisions are set forth in Articles 648 – 659 of the Code of Civil Procedure (“CPC”).

Fabien Cordiez is a licensed, dual-qualified French Lawyer and solicitor with over 10 years of experience.  His law firm is regulated by the French Bar Association and is also a non-practising member of the UK Law Society.  Mr. Cordiez is also a member of the LawGuru Attorney Network.

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