21/11/2013 PROFILE > Chef d'entreprise , Direction , Marketing , Service contentieux

Client contact: property of company or commercial?

On the one hand, a sales representative should be able to freely exercise his/her responsibilities by making use of the experience acquired with a previous employer. S/he therefore has his/her own network, and contacts used to be effective. On the other hand, the company funding canvassing and client relations should be able to use the contacts and data collected. This is the current context of disputes related to the property of client contacts. Moreover, the freedom of competition is opposed to any legal appropriation of clients and the principle of intellectual property is such that information cannot be appropriated, it is preferable to talk about "joint ownership" and not "exclusive property".
Appropriation of files may however be sanctioned on the basis of unfair competition. An employee is bound by an obligation of loyalty towards an employer. However, this is only if the latter created, constituted, verified and presented the database of contacts (by making a considerable financial, material or human investment). There is only the non competition clause to protect, temporarily, the employer from canvassing of "its" contacts by former sales representatives (this clause must be expressly indicated in the employment contract). This being so, former employees are not prohibited from using these for non competitive activities.