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French electricity bills rise from February 1st

Households in France will see steeper electricity bills from February 1st, with both basic and 'peak-off-peak' rates increasing.

French electricity bills rise from February 1st
High voltage power lines in Cordemais, western France. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

The latest increase will be 8.6 percent for those on basic rate plans (which most households are on), and up to 9.8 percent for those who use ‘peak-off-peak’ (tarifs heures pleines-heures creuses) plans.

Because France’s electricity giant EDF is partially state-owned, the government approves tariff rises.

Finance minister Bruno Le Maire said: “For 97 percent of French households, the increase will be below 10 percent”.

He added that “this is the last increase for 2024”, saying that the next price rise would not be until February 2025.

This marks the fourth increase in electricity bills in the last two years, with prices having risen approximately 44 percent since February 2022, according to calculations by Le Parisien

Normally electricity tariffs are adjusted in February and August, but the government has frozen several increases since the Covid pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in order to help control increases in the cost of living.

How much does that mean for average households?

On average, households will pay around €100 more per year.

A four-room home heated by electricity only could see bills increase by €18 a month, while a one-bedroom apartment heated by electricity would see increases closer to €8.30 per month, the finance ministry told French media.

You can also use this simulator from BFMTV to estimate how much your bill will increase by, as costs differ based on surface area, the number of people living there, as well as consumption levels.

For example, there is a significant difference in electricity consumption based on whether or not you only use electricity to heat your home, or if it is also used for hot water and cooking.

The French government involvement in price-setting doesn’t just happen during periods of energy crisis, normally regulated tariff prices are updated twice a year; on February 1st and August 1st.

Typically, this value is calculated by the CRE (commission de régulation de l’énergie) and it is based on several different factors, which are explained on this government website. These tariffs proposed by the CRE are then subject to approval by the ministers in charge of energy and the economy.

These affect the state-owned Engie (formerly Gaz de France), the mostly state-owned EDF and some local distribution companies. Around 70 percent of people in France get their electricity from EDF but other suppliers do exist in the market.

These alternative suppliers, like Direct-Énergie, Total Spring or Antargaz, are free to charge more – but don’t usually charge much above the EDF rates for obvious commercial reasons.

Why the price rise?

During the period immediately following pandemic restrictions and the start of the war in Ukraine the French government helped households cope with soaring energy prices, via the bouclier tariff (tariff shield) which froze electricity and has prices.

Now, however, government is seeking to national decrease debt and plans to gradually lift price-shield measures. 

The French government had lowered the domestic tax on final electricity consumption (the TICFE) down to just €1 per MWh during the crisis period. This value was raised €21 per MWh on February 1st, and it will be restored to its pre-crisis level (of €32 per MWh) in 2025.

“We’ve protected a lot of people, and we’re getting back to normal. We also need to protect our public finances, because if there’s another pandemic or another crisis tomorrow, want to be able to protect the French, employees and businesses”, the minister said.

Increased electricity rates will allow the French government to earn approximately €6 billion, Le Maire explained to the French press in January.

“A very large part of that will be used to finance renewable energies, as well as the energy voucher”, the finance minister said.

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COST OF LIVING

Everything you need to know about the 2024 summer sales in France

As the countdown to the summer sales period in France continues, here’s what you need to know about the sales season, including your all important consumer rights before you hit the stores in search of big bargains.

Everything you need to know about the 2024 summer sales in France

In most of France, the summer sales will kick off on Wednesday, June 26th, at 8am precisely. The traditional summer promotional period will last four weeks, as provided by law, until close of business on Tuesday, July 23rd.

Corsicans will have to wait a few more days before going hunting for promotions in stores. The summer sales start on Wednesday July 10th and will last until Tuesday August 6th.

It’s a big deal for bargain hunters, because such promotions in France are limited to just two periods of the year, with the dates set by the government.

Overseas dates

French Guiana and Mayotte keep the same sales periods, but they run from Wednesday, July 17th to Tuesday, August 13th, in Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon; from Saturday, September 28th, to Friday, October 25th, in Guadeloupe; and from Thursday, October 3rd, to Wednesday, October 30th, in Martinique. On Saint-Barthélemy and Saint-Martin, you’ll have to wait until Saturday, October 12th, for the summer sales, which will end on Friday, November 8th.

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Is France really scrapping paper shopping receipts?

On Reunion, the winter sales – southern hemisphere, remember? – begin on Saturday, September 7th, and end on Friday, October 4th. The same applies to New Caledonia, where the winter sales will run from Saturday, August 24th, to Sunday, September 22nd. Finally, in Polynesia, the second sales period of the year will begin on Wednesday, September 25th and end on Sunday, October 13th.

What’s so special about the soldes period?

Unlike other year-round discounts, les soldes are highly regulated. The two sales periods are the only time of year that stores – keen to clear their stock – are allowed to sell items 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 appear as though it is offering huge discounts during the soldes.

READ ALSO Closed, open or restricted shopping: What’s the deal with Sunday opening in France?

During the rest of the year discounting is allowed in certain circumstances, so you might see promotions or vente privée (private sales, usually short-term events aimed at regular customers or loyalty-card holders) throughout the year.

In these situations the stores might be selling items for less than their original price, but they are not permitted to sell the item for less than they bought it for.

Shops are also permitted to have closing-down sales if they are shutting down, or closing temporarily for refurbishment.

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

Can I exchange my bargains?

Yes. Any product bought in a French store during the sales period remains subject to normal exchange and refund policies, despite what some shop owners might want you to believe.

So you can safely ignore any sign that reads something along the lines of les articles soldés ne sont ni repris ni échangés (the articles on sale cannot be returned or exchanged). Your consumer rights trump that sign. 

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. If you bought a product knowing it was scratched or marked in some way, you don’t have the right of refund or exchange.

And, if you just changed your mind or bought the wrong size, retailers aren’t obliged to take it back or allow an 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.

READ ALSO Your rights for shopping online in France

Tax rebates

If you are a non-EU resident, you might be eligible for a tax rebate on your sales purchases.

If you spend at least €100 in one store, then you qualify. You should hold onto your receipt and tell the cashier you plan to use a tax rebate so they can give you the necessary documentation (a duty-free slip).

Then when you are leaving you can find the kiosk at the station or airport dedicated to tax rebates (détaxe) and file prior to leaving France.

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