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France: Judicial Court of Paris dismisses corporate claim based on dissemination of misleading information about the company’s carbon emissions

On 28 March 2024, the Judicial Court of Paris annulled the writ of summons served by a major French energy company (“the Company”) on one environmental NGO and a consulting firm, which was based on dissemination of misleading information (see Greenpeace press release). The Court held that the writ of summons was too vague and did not allow the defendants to effectively defend themselves.

The claim, which was based on dissemination of misleading information, had been made by the Company in response to statements made by the NGO and consulting firm about the Company’s carbon footprint and was, as such, unprecedented. Although the claim was not debated on the merits, one can expect a growing number of lawsuits of this type filed by corporates, considering the increasing allegations of greenwashing made by NGOs and civil society.

Background of the claim

The dispute between the Company and the two defendants (Greenpeace France and FACTOR-X, based in Belgium) dates back to November 2022, when the latter released a report entitled “Carbon Footprint: The Numbers Don’t Add Up”. The publication notably accused the Company of significantly underestimating its 2019 greenhouse gas emissions.

In response, the Company brought legal proceedings before the Paris Judicial Court against the defendants on the basis of an alleged dissemination of misleading information in relation to a publicly traded company, within the meaning of the French Monetary and Financial Code. 

Interestingly, these proceedings based on market abuse were brought before a civil court, rather than criminal courts or the French financial regulator (noting that a market abuse may qualify as both a criminal and a regulatory offence under French law).

Pursuant to its writ of summons, the Company requested the Court to order the defendants to:

  • delete the litigious report and all related publications, subject to a fine of 2,000 euros per day; and
  • pay a “symbolic” 1 euro as damages, and 50,000 euros as legal costs.

However, at a preliminary hearing, the defendants:

  • challenged the validity of the writ of summons, claiming that it lacked precision; and
  • claimed that the Company’s lawsuit constituted a “strategic lawsuit against public participation” (SLAPP, or procedure-bâillon in French) by circumventing the strict conditions set forth under French law on defamation claims. On this basis, the defendants filed a counterclaim for abuse of process.

The decision of the Paris Judicial Court

On 28 March 2024, the Paris Judicial Court declared the Company’s writ of summons null and void due to its lack of precision. Notably, the Court held that the writ of summons did not “define and clearly and precisely list the false and misleading information in question”.

The Court held that the lack of precision necessarily caused harm to the defendants, which “without a precise and exhaustive list of the allegedly false or misleading information […] could not effectively defend themselves on the merits”.

On this basis, the writ of summons was annulled for failing to comply with the procedural requirements set out by French law. 

As to the defendants’ counterclaim for abuse of process, the Court held that they failed to characterise the fault committed by the Company when exercising its right to take legal action.

Next steps

The Company may file an appeal within 15 days from the service of the decision. Alternatively, it may serve an amended writ of summons against the defendants.



climate change & environment, corporates, greenwashing, litigation, france, blog posts