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The government in France has a monopoly encouraged by law, whereby contracts can be opened digitally, but have to be cancelled through a signed paper letter paid to the government postal service. Every year 240 million signed letters are posted, at 1.2 billion euros. (yes i am French!)

Code Civil 2016 Art. 1126. –Information requested for the conclusion of a contract and information provided to execute the conclusion of a contract may be sent by electronic mail (only) if the recipient has agreed that this means may be used.(>98% of companies refuse)

In theory, customers could pre-emptively choose a company that accepts digitally signed cancellations (free, easy), but in reality absolutely no companies want or allow any clients to cancel digitally, they all only accept paid, postal cancellation.

Comparatively, Microsoft forced people to manually download competing browsers, and it was a "choice" which was a lot easier than the La Poste 99% market on paid contract cancellations... is there not a strong case of market abuse by La Poste in EU law? It has 99% of the market, legally encouraged/ protected.

Quote from Law.fr: In the absence of a letter with proof of delivery, the law can nullify the financial claims involved on a contractual basis (cohabitation costs, rental, etc) ... So, a signed for letter is often obligatory to end a contract:

  • property rental
  • mobile / internet
  • assurance
  • compte bancaire
  • employment

It's environmentally unfriendly to use envelopes instead of digital contracts.

In European anti-monopoly law, does that not represent some kind of abuse and monopoly of communications? What is it like in other countries?

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    Not my downvote, but did you have a reference for that stipulation? I'm finding nothing suggesting contracts may not be terminated by a letter delivered by hand, signed in person and in presence, or delivered by another carrier providing traceability. And it looks like Article 1127-4 of the French Civil Code 2016 specifically mentions that for "Contracts made by electronic means" "A simple letter relating to the conclusion or performance of a contract may be sent by electronic mail." (Source trans-lex.org). What am I missing? Aug 20 at 8:37
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    This sounds like it is in violation of EU regulations. The EU requires that contracts can be terminated by the same means used to create them. Created online? Then you can terminate them online.
    – MSalters
    Aug 20 at 8:47
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    @DeltaEnfieldWaid: The EU directive has an explicit "Level of harmonisation" which absolutely forbids deviations in national law. Member States shall not maintain or introduce, in their national law, provisions diverging from those laid down in this Directive. It doesn't matter what companies think, the EU states that the contract ended with a statement from the consumer. (Art 15 service directive)
    – MSalters
    Aug 20 at 9:27
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    So the issue is with the recipient not accepting electronic communication (a company policy problem rather than a government stipulation problem)? Aug 20 at 10:31
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    I don't understand where you're seeing an abusive monopoly here, if any given company is free to accept other means of cancelling a contract, and if any given consumer is free to enter into a contract with a business or not based on what cancellation means they offer.
    – Sneftel
    Aug 20 at 12:00
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+50

In European anti-monopoly law, does that not represent some kind of abuse and monopoly of communications?

As a general rule, governments are allowed to award monopolies to individuals or private firms, or to governmental entities, and governmental entities are not, in general, subject to anti-trust liability.

For example, governments may nationalize a particular industry, government may authorize a firm that is regulated as a utility to have a monopoly in lieu of using private competition between firms to provide utilities, governments can award patents to inventors which are monopolies, governments can establish a national health service, and so on.

Anti-trust law is a create of statute and only prohibits what national governments decide to prohibit by statute, which rarely includes their own activities.

In the E.U., this is somewhat complicated by the fact that the E.U., generally speaking, tries to put government contracts from within the E.U. but outside the country offer government contracts on an equal footing. But that does not, in general, prevent the government from nationalizing a good or service and making it an exclusively governmental function. The Postal Service is a governmental entity and/or regulated utility, so this would seem to be proper.

In the same vein, across Continental Europe, notaries public have transferrable, non-exclusive license to a particular territory in the country (that can be bought and sold between licensed notaries) and only a small number are allowed in any jurisdiction. Anyone who wants to do business transactions that require notaries must deal with one of them and in low population areas there may well be a monopoly.

Anti-trust law is generally directed at preventing unregulated anti-competitive conduct by private firms.

Also, as noted in the original question, the use of means other than mail to cancel contracts isn't mandated, it is a choice of the parties in the context of laws that allow for alternatives. And, while the statutes disfavor electronic communications, the statutes do not, as a comment notes, state that contracts may not be terminated by a letter delivered by hand, signed in person and in presence, or delivered by another carrier providing traceability. The government post office means is presumably less expensive than a private courier providing hand delivery, but termination by hand delivery or courier of a signed dead tree paper letter appears to be allowed to cancel a contract without counter-party consent. So, it isn't a true monopoly.

In the same vein, the law does not mandate that apartment leases require payment of a security deposit, but the prevailing legal rules create an incentive that makes this practice very widespread.

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