On 22 November 2019, French NGO I-buycott submitted a specific instance against Starbucks Coffee France (SCF) to the French NCP. The complainant claims that the company has not observed the Disclosure, Consumer Interests and Taxation chapters of the OECD Guidelines. The complainant alleges that SCF has not published adequate and sufficient information on its organisation, tax operations, intra-group transfer prices and a license agreement between Starbucks Coffee group and Mexican group Alsea. They also question the transparency of the company’s taxation activities. The complainant also raises concerns about the taxation of activities carried out in France on behalf of Starbucks Coffee group before and after the sale of the company to Alsea.
Relevant OECD Guidelines
- Chapter III
- Chapter III Paragraph 1
- Chapter III Paragraph 2 c
- Chapter III Paragraph 2 e
- Chapter III Paragraph 3 a
- Chapter III Paragraph 4
- Chapter VIII
- Chapter VIII Paragraph 2
- Chapter VIII Paragraph 4
- Chapter XI
- Chapter XI Paragraph 1
On 30 March 2020, the complainant reformulated its specific instance to reflect information concerning Starbucks Coffee’s organisation in France (namely the sale of Starbucks Coffee France to Alsea Group in January 2019 and the existence of a license agreement between Alsea and Starbucks Coffee group).
On 14 May 2020, the French NCP accepted the reformulated complaint. The French NCP informed the Mexican, Spanish, UK, US, and Dutch NCPs about the allegations, which raised intra-group transfer pricing and taxation questions. The French NCP ultimately decided to take the lead on the case with the support of the other NCPs.
On 10 July 2020, the French NCP published its initial assessment in which it determined that the issues raised in the reformulated complaint merited further examination. The NCP accepted the complaint and offered its good offices to the parties, which both parties accepted. Between this time and the conclusion of its good offices in February 2021, SCF cooperated with good offices but did not have a direct dialogue with the complainant.
On 1 June 2021, the NCP issued a final statement in which it concluded the process without agreement. In relation to the allegations concerning the Disclosure chapter, the NCP concluded that SCF only partially complied with the OECD Guidelines recommendations. Concerning the allegations related to the Consumer Interests chapter, the NCP considered the SCF did not provide consumers with adequate information as recommended by the Guidelines, but that there was no evidence that SCF (would have) engaged in deceptive, misleading, fraudulent or unfair practices. With respect to the claims on breaches of the Taxation chapter, the French NCP considered that the company complied “with the letter and spirit of France’s tax laws and regulations” and clarified that this includes the OECD’s standards on transfer pricing.
The French NCP also made recommendations to SCF in its final statement:
- Disclose material information on its financial and operating results, intra-group structure, related party transactions and Starbucks Coffee group’s relationship with Alsea.
- Provide information on its taxation, possibly involving a commitment to take into account the OECD’s standards and recommendations on international taxation, such as in the form of a code of conduct.
- Comply with the Taxation chapter of the OECD Guidelines by providing sufficient information to enable consumers to make informed decisions. The NCP stated that this would make it possible to communicate on related party transactions whose costs are likely to be included in product prices.
- Continue to “comply with both the letter and spirit of tax laws and regulations of” France “by making timely payment of their tax liabilities”.
The French NCP stated that it would follow-up on its recommendations about disclosure by the end of 2021.
- Company in violation
- Other companies involved
- Affected people
- Other NCP's where the complaint was filed
- Date rejected / concluded
- 1 June 2021