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American retailers take on Quebec’s language laws

Six American retailers have sued the province of Quebec for insisting they add French to their global trademarks.

According to a marketing expert, the American retailers might simply pull out of Quebec.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 9, will be heard by a Superior Court judge.

In an article by QMI, marketing professor Ken Wong said, “Their [six retailers’] business model depends on standardization and scale, none of which are possible under this (threat).”

He added that the retailers have spent hundreds of millions on brand identity and now will lose that in Quebec. “It could be that they’d be better off not operating in Quebec if the cost is a loss of their fundamental business model,” he said in the report.

The province wants Walmart, Best Buy, Old Navy, Guess, Gap and Costco to add French words to their outdoor signs to comply with the Quebec’s language laws.

Section 63 of the Charter of the French Language states that “the name of an enterprise must be in French.”

Quebec’s French-language office demanded that stores like Walmart modify the signs outside their stores to sound more French like “Le Magasin Walmart” (the Walmart Store), which would technically comply with the charter.

The Office Quebecois de la langue francaise is threatening to revoke the francization certificates of the six retailers.

The certificates say businesses are operating according to language laws and without them chains won’t be able to receive subsidies or contracts from the province.

Walmart is the largest operator among the six retailers with 55 stores.

So far Quebec politicians have been silent on the matter while critics have decried the language police as the most effective tool to chase business and investment out of Quebec during an economic recession.

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