May 28, 2015 – Alteration of French Euro coins has taken on a dramatic scale forcing the Mint to take drastic steps against this infriction of law. In an open letter the chairman and CEO of Monnaie de Paris, Christophe Beaux, explains the situation and what expects those who modify Euro coins for selling them on. We publish extracts of Mr Beaux’ letter here:
Warning related to coin alteration practices
I have noted that many coins issued by Monnaie de Paris have been altered by colouring or by gilding and were being sold on to the public in this altered form. These practices, which affect, in particular, the 2-euro commemorative coins issued by Monnaie de Paris, together with some collectors’ items, are illegal. They contravene the intellectual property rights of Monnaie de Paris, and also various statutory and regulatory provisions, of French and Community law, governing the status and the appearance of euro currency coins. It is essential that a stop is put to these practices.
This warning letter, the intention of which is to provide a reminder of the provisions in force, is sent to all of the resellers of Monnaie de Paris.
You are reminded that Monnaie de Paris’ sovereign and exclusive mission of minting lender tender coins and collectors’ coins is derived from law and in particular from Articles L 121-2 and L 121-3 of the French Monetary and Financial Code.
Monnaie de Paris also manages, on its Pessac site, the Coin National Analysis Centre (CNAP – Centre National d’Analyse des Pièces) and the European Technical and Scientific Centre (ETSC). Combating counterfeiting is therefore at the heart of its mission.
Altering coins infringes the intellectual property rights of Monnaie de Paris
The coins issued by Monnaie de Paris and the designs that appear on those coins are intellectual works protected by copyright as defined by Articles L 111-1 et seq. of the French Intellectual Property Code. Monnaie de Paris owns the copyright on the coins that it issues in accordance with Article L.123-1 of the French Monetary and Financial Code. In addition, Monnaie de Paris is required to forge partnerships, particularly in the form of licenses, with right holders whose trademarks, logos, graphics and other creations protected by copyright or other intellectual property rights are likely to appear on the coins issued.
Altering coins contravenes the specifications set by the community bodies and the Minister for the Economy
The coins issued by Monnaie de Paris are also subject to precise specifications. The integrity of the coins – those in circulation and commemorative and collectors’ coins – must therefore be preserved, even if you are not aware of the initial regulatory and official specifications.
Altering coins makes them unfit for circulation and deprives them of any legal tender status
In any event, altering coins, in particular by colouring or gilding, makes them unfit for circulation and deprives them of any legal tender status. This also applies to collectors’ coins issued by Monnaie de Paris which, having been improperly coloured or gilded, lose their legal tender status in France and no longer have any nominal value.
Altered coins risk being confused with legal tender coins
As coloured or gilded coins are unfit for circulation, deprived of both the status of legal tender and any nominal value, they must be considered to be mere novelty coin-like products. However, the risk of confusion with real, unaltered coins which have retained their legal tender status, is obvious. In fact, the average consumer with such a coloured or gilded coin, or one altered in any other way, in his/her hand, may think that it is a euro coin in circulation or a collectors’ coin that is still legal tender and has been issued as such by the relevant institution. For these reasons also, such processes are unacceptable and illegal. They are also likely to justify criminal legal proceedings in France.
Altered coins contravene the French consumer code
Beside the fact that the product is illegal and deceptive, any communication intended for consumers which does not clearly advise them of the loss of legal tender status of the coins sold and the other consequences detailed above must be deemed to be deceptive. It is pointed out that deceptive business practices are made a criminal offence. The sale of a coloured or gilded coin constitutes such a practice as long as the consumer has good reason to think that the product sold is still a coin, has been issued as such by Monnaie de Paris and is still legal tender. Monnaie de Paris will therefore act, in all cases, on this basis, in particular by referring the matter to the French Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Repression of Fraud.
The Penal Code heavily punishes the falsification of money
It must be recalled that the French Penal Code punishes as a crime not only the counterfeiting of money but also the falsification of money. The counterfeiting or the falsification of coins or banknotes which are legal tender in France or are issued by authorised foreign or international institutions for that purpose is punishable by thirty years’ criminal imprisonment and a fine of €450,000 (…). Transporting, putting into circulation or holding, with a view to putting into circulation, any falsified or counterfeited money referred to in the first paragraph of Article 442-1, or illegally produced money referred to in the second paragraph of that article, is punishable by ten years’ imprisonment and a fine of €150,000.
The production and the selling on of altered coins constitute acts of unfair competition
Money-altering processes are also likely to infringe the rules of lawful and fair competition. Indeed, the consumer is led to believe that Monnaie de Paris has itself issued the coloured or gilded coins, which is not the case. The risk of confusion already mentioned supra can therefore justify a legal action by Monnaie de Paris for unfair competition based on Article 1382 of the French Civil Code.
There is also unfair competition through parasitic behaviour since, in such a case, the dealer rides on the coat-tails of Monnaie de Paris and takes advantage of its creations to sell a product which the dealer itself has coloured without any authorisation. This practice is also punishable under Article 1382 of the French Civil Code.
Consequently, Monnaie de Paris is insistently asking you not to alter coins issued by it. If you are involved in the production, promotion and marketing of coins issued by Monnaie de Paris which have been coloured, gilded or altered in any other way, you are ordered to cease within a period of fifteen days of receipt of this letter.
Monnaie de Paris will henceforth take all measures to put an end to such behaviour, to have such behaviour punished and to obtain compensation for the damage suffered, both in and outside France, including:
- breaches will be recorded by a bailiff;
- the French Directorate General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Repression of Fraud, the supervisory authorities of Monnaie de Paris and the relevant Community and local authorities will be notified;
- with regard to offences committed on the Internet (online promotion and selling), Monnaie de Paris may send formal demands to the hosts of the contentious websites pursuant to Article 6-1-5 of law no. 2004-575 of 21 June 2004 for the purpose of getting the illegal content withdrawn;
- advertising inserts in the written and online press may result in a complaint to the Advertising Ethics Jury of the French professional advertising regulation authority (ARPP), whose decisions are published;
- Monnaie de Paris will also carry out its obligations under Article 40 of the French Criminal Procedure Code by reporting criminally reprehensible behaviour to the Public Prosecutor
- more generally, Monnaie de Paris will initiate all appropriate legal proceedings, before both civil and criminal courts, to put an end to the violations and obtain the relevant financial compensation.
To learn more about the official collector coins issued by Monnaie de Paris visit the official website.