An interior design contract provided that in the event of a dispute, the parties “shall first resort to the arbitration of an expert appointed by common agreement or, failing that, of two experts appointed by the parties and who may themselves appoint an expert third party. Failing to settle the dispute by this amicable assessment, it will be resorted to the competent courts of the registered office of the owner.” [in French language “arbitrage”, here translated as “arbitration of an expert”, besides a common meaning, can be considered as “evaluation”]
The dispute arose, one of the parties rises jurisdictional pleas in order to have the dispute submitted to arbitration. Alternatively, it invokes a jurisdictional objection in favour of the Commercial Court of Rennes. The Commercial Court of Paris rejects the first exception and retains the second.
Before the Commercial Court of Rennes, the party raises for the first time an inadmissibility objection based on disrespect of the conciliation clause upheld by the first judgement. The other party objects that the previous objection concerned an arbitration clause, thus, it cannot be considered as conciliation clause anymore.
The Court considers that the clause does in fact constitute a conciliation clause and not an arbitration clause. Therefore, Respondent’s objection about the irrevocable choice of the nature of the clause is unfounded.
Finally, the inadmissibility objection can be raised at any stage of proceedings.