Firms face legal action for using English on Net

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Companies which use English on their products sold in France and even those using English on the Internet have come under fire from a French campaign to protect the national language.

The Georgia Institute of Technology's French branch in Metz is accused of breaking a local law because it publishes English language text on the Internet. A French sub-franchisee of British retailer The Body Shop has been taken to court for using English labels on some of its products instead of French. And a French electronic games retailer, Interdiscount, has also been told it has fallen foul of the protectionist law.

All three face a fine of up to $5000 if the Paris court finds that they breach a law introduced in 1994 designed to preserve the French language, known as the Loi Toubon.

Judge Michele Seurin of the Tribunal de Police said she will rule on the cases on February 24.

A Body Shop spokesman admits "several mistakes were made", not only by the sub-franchisee in Chambery, but also by the company's head franchisee for France, GW Management Ltd. But, he adds: "We have been assured that they are taking steps immediately to correct these."

Copyright January 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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