L'Oréal denies spying accusation by Guinot beauty institute

Paris, 15 June 2017 (AFP) - The CEO of French beauty institute chain Guinot has brought L'Oréal to court, accusing it of acquiring confidential information from some of the institute's franchisees without their knowledge. L'Oréal has "formally" denied the accusation on Thursday.

Guinot has attacked L'Oréal - Guinot

Jean-Daniel Mondin, CEO of Guinot, has stated to press agency AFP that, between 2014 and early 2015, alleged "researchers" visited on several occasions some of the Guinot institute's franchisees, in order to acquire confidential information on the beauty institute's skincare product range and know-how.

The researchers "introduced themselves as representatives of Guinot" and recorded what the interviewees said "unbeknownst to them", claimed Mondin, confirming the content of an article published on Thursday on the Opinion Internationale website.

In March 2015, court officers sent by the Paris trade tribunal, following a request by Guinot, seized several documents from the researchers, which show they were commissioned by none other than L'Oréal, still according to Mondin.

He also stated that, at the time, L'Oréal and Guinot were still bound by a confidentiality clause, since the former had tried to acquire the latter, before giving up on the operation in September 2013 and proceeding to buy two other beauty institute brands, Carita and Decléor. "L'Oréal wanted to spy on Guinot for the benefit of Carita, using unfair methods," said Mondin.

In a statement issued to AFP, L'Oréal said the facts reported by Opinion Internationale "are wholly slanderous, false and defamatory," and reserved the right to "undertake appropriate action".

The cosmetics giant did however confirm that "an external contractor" carried out "six interviews" with beauticians, but that they "had no intention at all of appropriating any specific know-how." "Also, it is ridiculous to claim that, through these six interviews, L'Oréal would have appropriated the core know-how of a company like Guinot," stated the group.

"These allegations are part and parcel of the set of commercial disputes and litigation that exists between the two companies, notably regarding their respective brands," added L'Oréal.

At the end of 2016, Guinot filed a lawsuit against the cosmetics giant before the Paris commercial court. Jean-Daniel Mondin is claiming €13.5 million in damages and interest from L'Oréal. He maintains that, following this affair, his company's know-how has lost its "exclusive worth" with its commercial partners.

Guinot reported an annual revenue close to €80 million. The group also includes the Mary Cohr brand, and operates a network of 250 franchisees in France. Guinot distributes its products and devices to some ten thousand independent beauty institutes worldwide.

Translated by Nicola Mira

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