Habitat France: can you claim on insurance for non-delivery?

Stuck paying for an order you will never receive? Here are some possible routes to recourse

A view of the Habitat logo on the side of a building
The value of non-delivered orders already paid for is estimated at between €8-€9 million
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Habitat France, the furniture store that once belonged to the original UK company of the same name, went into liquidation in December, leaving the equivalent of €9m orders unfulfilled. Here are the rules on claiming insurance.

If a company goes into administration in France, and your order is not fulfilled, it can be difficult to get your money back as a consumer - especially if the company owes money to secured creditors, as is often the case.

However, there are some routes you can take, including:

1. Check your credit card insurance terms

Some cards and banks can help you recover your money if you made a payment for an item or service that was later discovered to be a scam, fraud, or otherwise undelivered.

Read more: 12 French banks taken to court for not reimbursing fraud victims

2. Check for purchase protection

If making a payment through a third party payment system, such as PayPal, buyers can often fall back on a purchaser protection plan. This means that the payment (or payments) can be challenged via the payment system against the supplier. Claims can typically be raised through the payment system platform itself.

3. Stop your payment plan

In case you are part-way through a payment plan, you can often stop all future payments - either through a third-party payment system (such as PayPal), or by cancelling all future payments on a bank schedule. This will not get your money back, but it will stop any further loss.

4. Contact the company

You may not get your money back immediately, but if the company receives enough requests from unhappy customers, it may later recognise the widespread demand for refunds. Consumers will likely be among the final parties to be reimbursed - if there is any money remaining - but registering your request could help.

Customers who have not received their orders have also been advised to declare themselves as a ‘creditor (créancier)’ on the administrators’ website, Habitat.procedurecollective.com as soon as possible.

This is done via an online form, and you must include proof of payment (including screenshots or attachments of your order confirmation, and payment receipts) and proof of any attempt to contact customer service or resolve the issue (screenshots of email exchanges with Habitat, etc).

However, customers are unlikely to get their money back because they are technically ‘unsecured creditors’ with no guarantee of repayment, one expert has said.

The first to be repaid from any administration deal will be the company’s 450 employees, the tax authorities, and social security authority Urssaf. Yet, even employees have been warned they may not be paid.

5. Launch legal action

Join together with other disgruntled customers and launch a civil case against the company via a lawyer who specialises in consumer rights.

If you are able to launch legal action as a group of consumers, you may be able to ask a judge to force the company - or its liquidators - to arrange refunds for undelivered goods. This route may be expensive, however.

The options here are to use a mediator associated with the specific business area involved or the service of a conciliateur. For disputes of under €5,000, mediation is obligatory before going to court.

France does not have the equivalent of the UK local trading standards departments. Instead, it is the government’s DGCCRF which is charged with looking after consumers.

You are advised to read through the relevant information on the website first, before proceeding. If you still feel you have a case, then you can contact the DGCCRF directly, either through the government’s signal.conso.gouv.fr site, or by telephone, number 0809 540 550.

Liquidation and financial difficulties

Habitat France, which has been independent of the original UK Habitat store since 2011, has been in judicial administration since administrators called for the liquidation of the company at the Bobigny Commercial Court in December 2023.

The company had been struggling to pay its suppliers and fulfil existing orders for months. The value of the non-delivered orders that have been paid for (either in full or partly) is estimated at between €8-€9 million.

The firm partly blamed the difficulties on “internal social movements that affected the activity” of the shops, rising raw material and energy costs, and said that some required restructuring of the business had not been possible due to the “systematic opposition of unions”.

But at the time of the liquidation announcement, workers’ unions said that they had been warning of problems for a year, including a lack of sales and no deliveries to shops for months.

Ratiba Hamache, union delegate for the CGT Habitat central office, said: “In 2023, we should have taken stock and stopped [trading].”

Habitat France was split from the British group after it was acquired by French distribution company CAFOM in 2011. It had 25 stores and employed 450 people in France.

In 2020, the firm was bought by businessman Thierry Le Guénic but continued to struggle.

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