The annulment of an arbitral award may be pursued by parties involved in an international arbitration conducted in France, allowing them to challenge the award’s validity through a dedicated annulment process. Parties can initiate the French annulment process exclusively against international arbitral awards rendered in France. They may not use this procedure against international arbitral awards rendered abroad.
Grounds for the Annulment of Arbitral Awards in France
The French Code of Civil Procedure (“CPC”) governs the annulment procedure. It is available to parties who wish to challenge the validity of an arbitral award based on one of the specific grounds restrictively listed under Article 1520 of the CPC, namely:
- The wrongful upholding or declining by the arbitral tribunal of its own jurisdiction;
- The improper constitution of the arbitral tribunal;
- The breach by the arbitral tribunal of the mandate conferred onto it;
- The violation of due process; or
- The recognition or enforcement of the arbitral award is against international public policy.
Pursuant to Article 1519 of the CPC, the party seeking annulment must file a petition with the Court of Appeal of Paris. The filing must be made within one month from the date that the filing party was officially notified of the award to be challenged.
The Court of Appeal will examine the request and evidence submitted by the filing party and will only pronounce the annulment when it is satisfied that one of the grounds for annulment listed above exists. The scope of the Court of Appeal’s review of the case is, however, limited to verifying that the annulment grounds are met and does not otherwise extend to examining the merits of the case.
Waiver of the Right to Seek the Annulment of the Arbitral Award
Under Article 1522 of the CPC, parties can relinquish their right to seek the annulment of the arbitral award by mutual written contract, clearly stating their intention to that effect. The parties may not renounce or relinquish their right to challenge the arbitral award in general and must rather specify the type of challenge that they agree to forego.
Effects of Annulment on Subsequent Arbitral Awards
Under certain circumstances, an arbitral tribunal may render two interlinked awards involving the same case. This raises the question of determining the fate of the second award in the event of annulment of the first.
French courts recently settled this question in the Sorelec case: in this case, the Court of Cassation (“Cour de cassation”) annulled a partial award for being contrary to international public policy. Consequently, the final award (the second award) was annulled by the Court of Appeal of Paris as a consequence of the annulment of the partial award on the same day, leading to a second decision by the Cour de cassation a week later. The latter rejected the appeal and confirmed the annulment of the final award by way of annulment.
The mechanism of annulment of international arbitral awards in France provides a means for parties to challenge the validity of awards. With ongoing developments and precedents, it is an area that demands continued attention and expertise from legal professionals. However, counsel still face challenges when filing a request for annulment before French courts. These challenges primarily revolve around the interpretation of the annulment grounds outlined in Article 1520 of the CPC.
 The right to waive the right to seek the annulment of arbitral awards based on Article 1522 of the CPC is only available for arbitral tribunals constituted after 1 May 2011.