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Your consumer rights for French sales

As the official French sales begin, here's what you need to know about the sales season, including your all important consumer rights.

Your consumer rights for French sales
France's winter sales run for four weeks. Photo: Fred Tanneau/AFP

Wednesday, January 12th, marks the first day of the winter soldes (sales) for the vast majority of France.

In most parts of France they last until Tuesday, February 8th.

There are however regional exceptions to this rule, including the départements of Meurthe-et-Moselle, Meuse, Moselle and Vosges where the sales have already started and France’s overseas départements.

The sale season is a big deal because such promotions in France are limited to just two periods of the year, with the dates set by the government.

Unlike other year-round discounts, les soldes are highly regulated.

  • Promotional items must have been on sale for at least a month before being offered at a discount price.
  • Shops can slash their prices because for them it’s about clearing their stock during the sales period. During the sales period and ONLY during the sales period stores are allowed to sell at a loss.
  • Sale items must also be clearly marked and separated from non-sale items with the before and after price plainly visible. Online stores must also abide by these rules.
  • Stores are forbidden from hiking the prices of items before the sales period to make falsely it appear as though it is offering huge discounts during the soldes.

Despite the rules being strict, consumer groups still advise shoppers to be cautious especially when shopping online.

Alexandre Chevallier from the France’s anti-consumer fraud body DGCCRF says: “We always advise the customer to take the time to look at the different online offers on a product. Before you buy, check the offers, the guarantees, the details, the means and delivery times … By taking the time to compare everything you will be vigilant.”

Can I exchange my bargains?

Although some retailers might try to say the contrary, any product bought on sale is still subject to normal exchange and refund policies.

So if you are told or shown something like les articles soldés ne sont ni repris ni échangés  (the articles on sale cannot be returned or exchanged) you should ignore it and point out your rights.

In case of a hidden defect, the store is required to refund or exchange the product. But beware this is only for defects that were not apparent in the store, for example an electrical item that doesn’t work.

But if you just changed your mind or bought the wrong size, the retailers aren’t obliged to take it back or allow you to exchange, although many of them will.

However if you buy something by mail order or through the internet you do have the right to send it back within 14 days and the retailer is obliged to refund the money.

“This is the fundamental difference between online and offline sales,” added Chevallier.

“You do not need a reason or proof to cancel an order online, even during the sales. Keep in mind that this right runs from the day after receipt of the package and lasts 14 days.”

Are the French soldes unique?

France is somewhat distinctive for being one of the few European countries with such strictly-regulated sales. Most other countries offer sales starting after Christmas but with fewer restrictions and flexible dates. 

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LIVING IN FRANCE

Checklist: What you need to do if you move house in France

From the tax office to the post office, internet firms and pets - who you need to tell when you move house in France

Checklist: What you need to do if you move house in France

Whether you’re moving down the street, to the other side of town, or to a different département, the administrative scale of the task is almost as big as the physical side – and at least as stressful, unless  – on actual moving day – you lose the kettle and can’t make a cup of tea.

The job of moving house gets more difficult the closer you get to moving day, and it’s easy to forget or put off those administrative jobs you have to do. So, here’s a list of those annoying red tape jobs you need to consider in good time. 

1. Give notice to your landlord

If you’re renting your current property, you need to give either one month or three months’ notice – depending on the type and location of the property rental –  that you’re moving out, and arrange with your landlord a suitable time to carry out an état des lieux of the property, similar to the one carried out when you moved in.

2. Schools

Parents of school-age children attending state-run schools must notify the establishment if they move out of its catchment area, and find a new school for their children within eight days of moving. 

Under certain circumstances children will be able finish the school year in the establishment they attended before the change of residence.

The first step is to contact the town hall in the town you are moving to. The full rules, including those for children in private education or who are home schooled are here.

3.Tell the taxman – and other administrative bodies

The taxman needs to know you’re moving – if only to send your next tax form to the right address. 

You can inform tax officials of the fact and date of your move online, by logging into your Personal area on the impots.gouv.fr website

Here, at least, there’s some additional good news. France has set up a system in which you can tell a number of administrative offices – including the tax office, EDF, Pôle emploi, and Caf – that you’re moving house with one online form. Find it here.

4. Residence permit

Anyone living in France on a residence permit – such as Britons who have a post-Brexit Carte de séjour – needs to update the address on it.

The process can be completed online.

5. Driving licence and carte grise

Sadly, for technical reasons, declarations of change of contact details to the Vehicle Registration System with an effective date after June 30, 2022, aren’t currently included in the one form, all admin system mentioned above.

So, to change the registered address of your vehicle on its carte grise, you need to go to the ANTS website

Bizarrely, there is no rush to change the address on your driver’s license.  You can leave it until you apply for a new one (for example, if you lose it, or it expires) – and there’s no dedicated ‘change of address’ option on the driver’s licence application section of the ANTS website.

6. Utilities

You need to contact your electricity and gas supplier, as well as the water company and whoever operates your telephone, TV, internet package.

Be aware, if your current internet operator is unable to supply your new home, you can request the termination of your subscription free of charge.

Don’t forget your bank, either. 

7. New GP

You may want to change your GP – especially if you’re moving some distance. You will need to find a GP able to take on new patients, and they will be able to help with the process.

8. Don’t forget your pets

In France, carnivorous pets such as dogs, cats and ferrets, must be identifiable – usually by microchip, or tattoo – so that they can be returned to their owners if they get lost. This information is kept on a national database, which must be updated when you move house. Do that here

9. Get your mail forwarded

La Poste will forward any letters to your new address for up to 12 months. Click here for more information.

10. Help with the costs of moving

You may be eligible for some help with moving costs on the day itself. Those on lower incomes may be able to access help from the fonds de solidarité pour le logement towards the cost of hiring a removals firm, for example.

Parents with three children or more, or who are expecting a third child may be eligible for a moving allowance from CAF under certain conditions. More information is available here

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