Versailles Court of Appeal, 3 May 2018, Association Francilienne de Comptable et de Conseil (“AF2C”) v. Pépinières Poulain, no. 17/02944

AF2C was to provide accounting services to Pépinières Poulain. By an order of the president of the Commercial Court of Pontoise, Pépinières Poulain was ordered to pay a sum corresponding to to AF2C’s invoices.

Pépinières Poulain challenged the order for not having had recourse to arbitration as provided for by AF2C’s by-laws. The commercial court of Pontoise indeed declared the action of AF2C inadmissible because of non-compliance with the arbitration clause.

The Court first requalified the plea of inadmissibility raised by Pépinières Poulain into a jurisdictional plea.

Then the Court ruled that the second paragraph of the arbitration clause is ambiguous providing that: “Before any legal action for the purpose of conciliation, disputes not resolved by arbitration may be brought before the President of the Regional Council of the Order of Chartered Accountants of Paris and the Ile-de-France Region.” However, the first paragraph makes it clear that the parties have committed to have recourse to arbitration: “In the event of difficulties or disputes arising between a member and the association, the parties undertake to resort to arbitration, by the appointment of a common arbitrator.”

Therefore, as the dispute is within the scope of the invoked arbitration agreement, the first judge should have declared his lack of jurisdiction and not the inadmissibility of the request. Thus, the Court overturns the judgement.

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