Since 1 July 2017, lobbyists are required to register on a digital platform, to provide citizens with information on the relations they have with public officials when public decisions are made. Consequently, it is now possible to consult a set of information regarding the identity of lobbyists (nature of the organisation, contact details, identity of the executives, fields of activities etc.).
Since 2018, this information is supplemented by the publication of activity reports, which details lobbying actions carried out: what were the issue covered by these activities and what resources were allocated to them.
As of September 1st, 2020, nearly 2 100 lobbyists are registered and have declared more than 27,000 lobbying activity reports.
A lobbyist is first a legal entity or a natural person operating as an individual.
_ Civil or commercial companies
_ Lawyers and consultants : law firm, consulting firm
_ Representative bodies : professional organization, trade union, consular chamber
_ NGO : association, foundation, research institute or think-tank, other NGOs
_ Public bodies conducting an industrial and commercial activity : public establishment or public interest group
_ Other organisations : foreign, for instance
_ Executives, employees or members of the organisation communicate with public officials ;
_ These communications are initiated by executives, employees or members of the organisation ;
_ These communications aim at influencing public decisions ;
_ Primarily : during the last six months, executives, employees or members of the organisation have spent more than half of the time engaging in lobbying activities ;
_ Regularly : during the last twelve months, executives, employees or members of the organisation have carried out more than ten influence actions.
An organisation is a lobbyist, and hence must register on the AGORA platform, if it fulfills the aforementioned conditions.
_ self-employed lawyer
_ lawyer working in an unincorporated entity
_ independent consultant
_ He or she communicates with public officials ;
_ He or she initiates these communications ;
_ He or she aims to influence public decisions ;
_ Primarily : during the last six months, he or she has spent more than half of the time engaging in lobbying activities ;
_ Regularly : during the last twelve months, he or she has carried out more than ten influence actions.
A self-employed individual is a lobbyist, and hence must register on the AGORA platform, if he or she fulfills the aforementioned conditions.
The law establishes a list of public officials for whom a communication may constitute a lobbying activity. Until 30 June 2018, the list includes the following officials :
_ members of the government ;
_ members of ministerial cabinets and staff of the President of the Republic ;
_ MPs and their staff (National Assembly and Senate) ;
_ the President of the National Assembly, the President of the Senate and their cabinet members (National Assembly and Senate) ;
_ officials of the departments of the National Assembly and the Senate, whose list is published on the website of each chamber ;
_ members of the board and sanctions committees of the independent administrative and public authorities mentioned in Article 11 of the Law of 11 October 2013 ;
_ the directors-general and secretaries-general of the aforesaid authorities, as well as their deputies ;
_ persons occupying decision-making positions in the government, for which they were appointed in the Council of Ministers. The list of such positions will be published and updated regularly on the website of the High Authority.
The list of public decisions that can characterize a lobbying activity, when they are raised in the context of a communication between a public official and a lobbyist, is as follows :
_ laws, including constitutional ones ;
_ ordinances of Article 38 of the Constitution ;
_ regulatory acts ;
_ decisions mentioned in Article L. 221-7 of the Code of relations between the public and the administration ;
_ public procurement, when the estimated duty-free value of the contract is equal to or greater than the European thresholds ;
_ concession contracts, when the estimated duty-free value of the contract is equal to or greater than the European thresholds ;
_ contracts giving temporary authorization to occupy the public domain;
_ administrative emphyteutic leases ;
_ contracts for the transfer of immovable property belonging to the private domain of the State or its public establishments ;
_ deliberations of local authorities approving the creation of a single-purpose mixed economy company.
In addition, “other public decisions”, whose contours are not specified, are taken into account :
_individual decisions relating to the issue, modification, withdrawal or renewal of an accreditation, an authorization, a certification, a derogation, a waiver, an exemption, an inclusion in a list, a license, a permit, a title, or a financial benefit of any kind ;
_ individual appointment decisions ;
_ acts taken by independent administrative and public authorities, when they have a certain normative effect, i.e. when they assume the character of general and mandatory provisions or when they lay down requirements which can be sanctioned.
Both public decisions in force and proposals for public decisions are included. As a matter of fact, communications on public decisions can relate to decisions that were already adopted, for instance in order to change them, or to decisions that are being discussed or prepared.
How to register ?
Registration can be made online on AGORA (only available in French).
For any assistance in English, lobbyists can reach the High Authority by email at email@example.com
When to register ?
Registration is mandatory within two months of the date when the conditions are met. Moreover, when the information to be disclosed is altered, the entry in the register must be updated within one month.
What information to disclose ?
For registration, the following information must be disclosed :
Lobbyists must disclose their identity to the High Authority by entering in the register, as the case may be, their SIREN (Identification System of the Register of Companies) code or their identification number in the national register of associations (RNA).
When they do not have any of these two numbers, lobbyist can contact the staff of the High Authority, through the platform, to communicate their identity and then obtain an identification number.
The executives whose identity and position must be communicated to the High Authority are those who fulfill the conditions laid down in Article 18-2, i.e. those who have the prerogative necessary to act on behalf of their organisation and represent it with regard to third parties, whether or not they carry out lobbying activities.
Individuals to be considered as “in charge of lobbying activities” in a legal person, and whose identity and position must be informed in the register, are divided into the following two categories:
_ individuals who spend more than half of their working time on lobbying activities;
_ individuals who have performed more than ten influence actions in the last twelve months.
Major sectors of activity are listed in the platform.
The lobbyists must also indicate at which level(s) they perform lobbying activities: local, national, European or global.
Lobbyists must mention in the register their membership in “trade unions, professional organisations or associations related to the interests they represent”. Three clarifications can be made in this regard.
Firstly, organisations must be declared regardless of the way in which lobbyists are affiliated with them: as members, contributors, donors, benefactors, etc. In addition, organisations supported by the executives, employees or members of lobbyists must be mentioned if the latter cover their contributions. However, membership must be direct: for example, if a lobbyist is a member of a professional federation, which is itself member of a confederation, only the federation must be mentioned in the register.
Secondly, only organisations established in France, or foreign-based organisations that are considered as lobbyists within the meaning of Article 18-2, must be mentioned.
Thirdly, organisations unrelated to the main activities of lobbyists, or the interests they defend, are excluded from the register.
This category of information only concerns lobbyists who carry out their activities, in whole or in part, on behalf of third parties, i.e. mainly consulting firms, lawyers and holding companies.
In the case of consulting firms and lawyers, clients for whom lobbying activities have been performed in the last six months must be mentioned in the register. When lobbying activities are carried out on behalf of a new client, the client’s identity must be informed within one month. By contrast, when for more than six months no activities were performed for a given client, this client’s identity must be removed from the register. Nevertheless, the client’s identity will still appear in previous activity reports for a period of five years.
Finally, in a group of companies, when a parent company carries out lobbying activities on behalf of a particular subsidiary, the latter must be mentioned.
When to report?
The activity report must be submitted to the High Authority within three months of the end of the lobbyist’s financial year.
If the lobbyist registered over the course of the year, the activity report shall cover all activities carried out between the reporting date and the end of the next financial year.
If the lobbyist’s activities were discontinued, the activity report shall cover all activities carried out between the end of the previous financial year and the date on which the lobbyist notified the High Authority of the cessation of activities.
What information to report?
_ The following information must be reported for each lobbying activity :
_ The kind of public decisions targeted by lobbying activities
_ The kind of lobbying activities undertaken
_ The issues covered by these activities, identified by their purpose and area of intervention
_ Categories of public officials the lobbyist has communicated with
_ The identity of third parties
_ The amount of expenditure related to lobbying activities in the past year and, if applicable, the previous year turnover.
The law sets out that “lobbyists shall conduct their activities with probity and integrity”. They are required to :
_ Declare their identity, the organisation they work for and the interests or entities they represent in their relations with public officials ;
_ Refrain from offering or giving to public officials gifts, donations or any advantages of significant value ;
_ Refrain from inciting public officials to violate ethical rules applicable to them ;
_ Refrain from using fraudulent means to obtain information or decisions from public officials ;
_ Refrain from obtaining or attempting to obtain information or decisions by deliberately misinforming public officials or by resorting to deceptive maneuvers;
_ Refrain from organizing conferences, events or meetings in which public officials would be remunerated, in any way, for speaking ;
_ Refrain from using the information obtained from public officials for commercial or advertising purposes ;
_ Refrain from selling to third parties copies of documents of the government or of an independent administrative or public authority, and from using the letterhead and the logo of these public authorities and administrative bodies ;
_ Strive to comply with all the rules set out in points 1 to 8 in their relations with the direct entourage of public officials.
When the High Authority detects, on its own initiative or following a report, a breach of ethical rules, it sends a formal notice to the lobbyist in question. The formal notice, which may be published, orders the lobbyist to comply with its obligations, after allowing him or her to present his or her observations.
After a formal notice, and for the next three years, the disregard of ethical obligations is punishable by one year’s imprisonment and a 15 000 euros fine.
These guidelines are intended to assist interest representatives by explaining the concepts used by the Law and its Implementing Decree no.2017-867 of 9 May 2017.