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France: Law on Administrative Simplification Implemented

(Dec. 2, 2014) France has recently implemented a law reversing the presumption of denial that had applied in most dealings between the French administration and the public. Previously, the general rule was that a governmental agency was deemed to have refused a request if the agency had not responded within two months. (Mathilde Damgé, Administration: silence vaut approbation sauf… dans la majorité des cas [Administration : Silence Equivalent to Acceptance Except… in Most Cases], LE MONDE (Nov. 12, 2014).) The new law, which was adopted last year but only came into effect on November 12, 2014, reverses this principle for a list of administrative procedures defined by the executive branch. (Loi No. 2013-1005 du 12 novembre 2013 habilitant le Gouvernement à simplifier les relations entre l’administration et les citoyens [Law No. 2013-1005 of November 12, 2013, Authorizing the Government to Simplify the Relations Between the Administration and Citizens] (Nov. 12, 2013), LEGIFRANCE.)

For the listed procedures, an administrative entity is deemed to have granted a request if it has not responded or asked for more information within a predefined amount of time, ranging from a few days to 12 months, depending on the procedure in question. (Id.) There are now 1,200 procedures for which the administration’s silence is deemed to signify approval. (Dominique Loriou, A partir d’aujourdhui le silence de l’administration vaut l’accord [Starting Today, the Administration’s Silence Signifies Approval], FRANCE INFO (Nov. 11, 2014).) The list of these procedures is available from the Legifrance website (last visited Nov. 26, 2014) and covers a very wide range of matters, from individual residential construction permits to authorizations to merge insurance companies. (Id.)

The main purpose of this law is to increase efficiency and simplify interactions with the French administration. Commentators have pointed out, however, that the law falls short of its goals and may actually end up being more complicated than the status quo ante. Indeed, the time limits vary greatly from one procedure to the next, many possible administrative procedures are not listed and therefore still rely on the previous rule, and many of the 1,200 listed procedures are themselves subject to exceptions. (Damgé, supra.)