Commercial Practices in France

About general French cheating mentality, read more on this Streetwise-France page.

Read more about dubious professional practices on this Streetwise-France page.

About the often murky French business world, you may also want to refer to the article "Other lawyers here have informed me about how sleazy the south east of France is".

Also read my page about travel warnings in France.

Premium rate telephone numbers

Please refer to the article "The French Telephone Numbering Plan - French Premium Rate Numbers" on this site.

Internet service providers and other businesses selling to consumers are obliged to provide a non-premium rate number for calls concerning the fulfilment of contractual obligations or complaining. They sometimes hide it and publish an overcharged number, so may have to go searching yourself on their web sites.

To circumvent premium rate numbers, you can often find a company's geographical phone number by looking the company up on a business information site.


See my page about travel warnings and tourist scams in France.

Selling you something so that you don't even notice it

Selling you something in such a way that you don't notice that you've bought anything is not uncommon. Particular problems sectors are telecommunications, especially mobile, and cable and satellite TV. Something that is presented as a free welcome gift may turn out to be an additional subscription that you have to cancel if you don't want to be charged extra. But you may also find that what you thought was a signature to approve etching the vehicle identification number on your car windows made you sign up for an insurance as well. Even authorised dealers of a prestigious German car brand are known to have let car buyers into this trap. 

In other cases, notably when buying online, the website automatically adds payable options, for example delivery insurance or additional warranty, without asking you. It is for you to be vigilant and un-select such options you don't want, and to double-check the total price before paying.

It is a common problem that unscrupulous agents for even major Internet and telephone companies collect names, addresses, phone numbers and signatures for some bogus purpose and then subscribe them to another operator without their knowledge or approval. The phenomenon is called slamming in good French. This typically happens at exhibitions, supermarkets and other places with lots of people, but there are also reports that people have been cold called by Internet and phone companies who proposed their services, and regardless of the prospective client's refusal to take up the service, the cold calling company has taken over the line of the victim. The victims only find out when they are disconnected from their current operator or start getting bills from the new operator. Some Internet/phone companies have opened freephone hotlines to deal with this problem. You are obviously not bound by the new operator, and don't hesitate to get it sorted out. It is estimated that up to 500,000 people a year may be victims to this. Avoid giving out personal details to someone in the street you don't know, even if they pretend being charity. It's easy to make some bogus charity id card. If you want to help the cause presented, then ask for documentation so you can verify the charity later, but avoid giving any personal details on the spot. These people could be anybody from burglars noting down those wearing expensive clothes or jewels, to ordinary crooks.

Industrial pastries and cakes in bakeries

Naïve as many of us are, we have the romantic idea that if we buy cakes or pastries at a bakery, then these products have been baked by the baker and his staff on site the same day. What else would you expect in a country with a reputation as the country of gastronomy?


In order to be allowed to use the name boulanger (baker), then the bread must be produced on site, but the regulations say nothing about cakes and other products.

According to an article on page 16 in the consumer magazine Que Choisir number 503, May 2012, up to half the pastries (pain au chocolat, croissant ...) are industrial products that the bakery has just heated from frozen condition, and something similar is the case for cakes, where the baker's role is reduced to assembling them from pre-cooked parts, although the percentage of industrial products is not indicated. What is known is that the market for industrial cakes and pastries in France is so large that there is an annual fair for these products in the beginning of March at the Salon professionnel Euro Pains at  Villepinte in the northern suburbs of Paris. At least it doesn't seem that the products are manufactured in China as many souvenirs are.

The quality of these industrial products obviously varies. If frozen ingredients are used, the shop is obliged to display a penguin or an igloo in the front, but that is rarely respected. Hence, there is no easy way to find out if a bakery a selling industrial or homemade products.

There is no guarantee how fresh the cakes are either. Regulations allow cakes to be sold up to three days after they have been produced if they are stored at refrigerator temperature. This has been validated by authorities from a hygienic point of view, but it says nothing about the quality. Practice varies from bakery to bakery.

The only way to find out where to buy cakes and pastries is trial and error. If you don't like the products, they are probably industrial. Vote with your purse.

Similar conditions is the case for restaurants. Read more about that on my page about travel warnings and tourist scams in France for tourists.

Cold Calling in France

Cold Calling can be very aggressive in France. In the vast majority of cases, my best advice is to hang up very quickly. You can do that politely, of course : Cela ne m'intéresse pas ; je vais alors terminer la conversation. Bonne journée. Au revoir Monsieur (or Madame). (I am not interested; I am thus going the end the conversation. Have a nice day. Good bye).

As an expat, you have the convenient solution of speaking English to them even if you may speak French. That will throw them off course.

In most cases, you can't verify if the caller is who he or she pretends to be. It happens that agents for Internet/phone services call and pretend to be France Telecom to make you sign up for for they want and give them your bank account number. The fraud authority is aware of these companies and bring them to justice when they can. You can ask them to send you their offer by post, but never give them bank or credit card information. The best is not to give them any information at all, even your address. These companies may insist that they can only send you the offer if they get a bank account number. All you have to do is hang up - if they don't hang up themselves when they realise they are not getting anywhere with you. This is based on real experience.

Always be vigilant about Internet companies, as many people get their lines subscribed to the new provider and the old provider disconnected without ever having signed anything (known as "slamming"). You can get it sorted out but it causes you a lot of trouble. This is why it is not a good idea to confirm even your address on the phone.

If you are self-employed and appear in the yellow pages, you will get a lot of junk calls. Companies regularly call and ask if I am aware of the latest campaign to inform about the latest tax regulations. They want to make appointments with you so they can make you sign up for something. They make you think it is some sort of official or government sponsored information campaign, whereas it's pure marketing. Just hang them up - politely if you prefer.

"We refund the difference if you find the same product cheaper elsewhere"

Many shops advertise to refund the price difference if you've bought something and then found it cheaper elsewhere, but they ask you to bring a quote from the shop with the lower price in order to refund you. If the other shop refuses, then they may not refund you. I don't see what should motivate a shop to write such a quote. That means that the guarantee can be a bit of a gimmick. Another trick they may use to avoid paying up is to claim that their model of super-xyz is a later version than the super-xyz sold at Farty, that they are therefore not comparable, and that they therefore don't have to refund you, unless you can demonstrate that they are the same versions. In other words, the shop where you didn't buy it has to write up a small novel.

Not honouring warranties

I bought a new Toyota in Belgium. Firstly, because Belgian list prices were lower than in France, secondly because the Belgian dealer outright offered 10% on the list prices, thirdly because the model I wanted was not in the French catalogue and could not be ordered. It came with 3 years' manufacturer's warranty and a further 2 years' warranty provided by Toyota Belgium/Luxembourg, the latter valid only for repairs done in Belgium or Luxembourg. The manufacturer's warranty is by law valid throughout the EU. After 2 years and 9 months, the car developed gearbox problems that I reported to the Toyota dealer in Avignon. They concluded the car needed warranty repair. I got worksheets for each time they saw the car. Throughout the last month of the warranty, I asked them when the warranty repair could be done, and all I was told was not to worry. After the end of the 3 years, I was told there was no more manufacturer's warranty and Toyota France confirmed that in writing. Someone at Toyota Avignon and someone else at Toyota France quite obviously both wanted to teach me a lesson about buying cars outside France. After complaining to Toyota in Japan, they just referred to Toyota France, and Toyota France didn't want to know a thing about warranty. I could sue Toyota France and/or Toyota Avignon but I have little energy for it. Toyota Avignon did try to repair the gearbox after a few months, claiming to have paid the parts out of their own pocket as Toyota France refused, but the repair only lasted a couple of months before the problem returned and became worse. I could get it repaired under the 5-year warranty in Luxembourg or Belgium but it would be quite costly to drive the car there, for me to travel back to Avignon, travel back to collect the car and drive it back. I have been phoning down Toyota Avignon, Toyota France, Toyota assistance, Toyota Belgium but nobody wants to help getting the repair done. Finally, the Toyota dealer in Belgium who sold me the car told me to send a formal notice by registered letter to Toyota France, ordering them to get the car fixed, with copy to Toyota Motor Europe in Brussels and copy to the Belgian dealer. He also told me that Toyota France's rejection letter is a standard letter they send out to customers who have bought their cars abroad, and that his Belgian dealership near the French border is inundated with warranty repair for cars he has sold for registration in France because the French Toyota dealers and Toyota French illegally refuse to honour the warranties. "They don't want to work", he said. The lesson is to make sure that your French dealer reports warranty incidents in time and document it to you, particularly if the car was not bought in France. I will not claim that such problems are limited to Toyota. It seems to me to be French "customer service" mentality and that would be independent on the make of the car.

In a later warranty incident, it was white goods and electronics retailer Darty that refused to apply the two-year warranty. Darty proudly boast with a "contract of confidence" in a massive PR campaign that has lasted for decades. A complaint to the CEO sorted out the problems in this case, though.

If you buy from third-party retailers on Amazon Marketplace, beware that Amazon take no responsibility for warranty, except that they offer a 3-months "A-Z warranty" that is limited to a handful of claims for life. Read more about Amazon Marketplace here.

Making it difficult to cancel contracts

French companies love their customers so much that they hate to see them leaving. In fact, they hate it so much that you may find that you can only give notice once a year and/or that the notice period is 2-3 months. While you can usually change a service to more expensive options during the year, changing to a cheaper option could be as difficult as giving notice. Some insurance companies use the tactics of notifying you about the increased premiums for next year when it's too late to give notice. This is at the limit of legality and can only be done for certain types of insurance. A recent law obliges companies to remind you in writing about the annual deadline for cancellation, and if they don't do it, you can cancel at any time.

Ignoring your requests

The quality of customer service varies enormously from one shop or provider to another. It is not uncommon that an employee who receives your written request for something, such as for example a medical reimbursement, will simply ignore it if he believes it can't be done, if he believes - whether correctly or not - that your request is in error, or if you made a mistake. In such a case, he will not notify you, and it is up to you to follow up on your requests and contact them again. It may also happen that they don't confirm that your request was fulfilled, such as for example the cancellation of a standing order, in which case you'll have to phone them to find out whether or not it has been done. In general, I recommend keeping one file where you note all outstanding requests and their dates.

"Forgetting" to refund balance in your favour

When you cancel a contract and respect the terms of the contract, then you may already have prepaid too much, so that the final invoice shows a balance in your favour. Some companies hope that you just forget about it. If you remind them, they confirm they are going to refund and then they still don't do it, hoping you'll forget about it now. Some companies are worse than others. Always be vigilant with telecommunication companies.

Continuing direct debits after you cancel a contract

When you cancel a contract and respect the terms of the contract, then the provider must obviously stop debiting your account, but mobile phone or Internet companies often continue. It is a problem across the board. I've seen it so often that I must conclude that it's not just by accident. In some cases, they even harass the client with debt collection agencies regardless of the fact that the client can prove with recorded letter receipts that the contract is duly cancelled. Even companies considered well-reputed do this, Richard Branson's Virgin Mobile France included, although they may be a franchise and not owned by Branson. Some companies play tricks and stop sending invoices, then suddenly send an invoice with two days' notice before the direct debit date, so you have very short notice to cancel it (Virgin Mobile). Be vigilant and stop direct debit immediately when you cancel a contract. If necessary, pay any balance by cheque. It's so much easier than fighting for months to get money back.

"Forgetting" to refund deposits

Watch out that deposits are refunded when you cancel a contract that involved an initial deposit. Once I moved, the water company "forgot" to account for the initial deposit on the final invoice and only sent an additional credit invoice when I requested it. Keep a simple file on your computer and make a note whenever you pay a deposit.

"Forgetting to credit refunds promised"

It happens, even in France, that a company tell you that they will credit one or two months' service to compensate for poor service or lack of service. Sometimes this credit is a contractual obligation, sometimes it is voluntary. The trouble is that some of them seem to just say this to get rid of you, but without enacting the credit. The result is that if you don't write down a note to follow up, you may forget about it. I'm quite sure some French companies are playing games with customers forgetting to follow up. If you do follow up, of course, you will have to complain a second time after a couple of months when you note that no credit has been applied. I have experienced this with Orange/France Telecom and CanalSat, the main satellite TV provider. Of course, it is impossible to prove that they are doing it on purpose, so either it is simple negligence or it is done on purpose. After 14 years in France, I mostly believe the latter.

Making you think you buy a local quality product but selling you a cheap import

There are many lovely open-air markets in Provence, where you will find herbs, lavender, local olive oil at reasonable prices, and many other local products with an inbuilt atmosphere of Provence. Unfortunately, while you may think you are living out your dream of Provence, reality is sometimes slightly different. The French consumer magazine Que Choisir, issue 427, June 2005, revealed that 11 out of 14 olive oils sold on such markets were from Spain. In a single case, an analysis revealed that the declaration on the bottle was false. Of course, there is nothing wrong with Spanish olive oil, but it is not from Provence, and you may not get the quality you thought. Genuine products from Provence simply do not come cheap, one of the reasons being the high cost of labour in France. Read the labels and don't forget that you rarely get more than what you pay for.

Not calculating pro-rata on cancellation

When cancelling a contract, watch out that periodical subscription fees and similar are properly adjusted on a pro-rata basis. For example, the above mentioned water company charged a flat fee for having access to water twice a year, each covering six months. I lived in the house 2 years and 1.5 months. When I checked the final invoice, they had charged me for 2 years and 6 months. As they explained, they simply charged the fee to whoever lived at the address on the date the fee was due. If that is true, then you could equally benefit from this odd - or should I say French - way of calculating fees.

"1 litre + 10 cl free"

French supermarkets are bursting with free goods. Amazing how they can make money out of selling free goods, isn't it? Buy something and get something in addition for free has become a new type of marketing. Of course, you can't just take the free part and walk away with that. But it's still a promotion that makes you save money. Or is it? Keep your calculator at hand if you want to be sure to save money. It sometimes happens that the unit price per litre or weight is higher for the something-for-free product than the same product without any "free" part. That's of course illegal, but it's for you to be aware and ask staff to correct the price. Another problem with these promotions is if for example a pack of 6 x 1.5 litre water bottles bears the mark "1 litre free" and the shop sells them by the bottle instead of using a price for the pack. In such a case, a supermarket had priced the bottles 0.50 € each, and at the checkout they counted 6 bottles at €0.50. Their excuse that it had been calculated into the price doesn't hold unless it's sold by the pack. They must deduct the cost of 1 litre. Certain shoppers don't bother about these details. Others on a tighter budget and with time on hand may want to watch the cents.

Bogus Promotions

"Bogus promotions" is perhaps not the right term, as these promotions are very real. The trouble with promotional catalogues is that they intend to make you think you save money on all the articles they present. However, while there are real and substantial savings to be made by buying promotional articles, don't skip the price comparison. Sometimes, a promotional article is still more expensive than its standard price in the supermarket next door. I found a very concrete example in Dia's promotional catalogue 27/2-12/3 2013 where Dr Oetker's Ristorante tuna pizza was on promotion at a price of €3.24; 50% reduction on the second. That is an average price of €2.43 per pizza. The trouble is that the standard price at the Leclerc almost next door is €2.07 per Dr Oetker's Ristorante tuna pizza. On top of paying more for the same article in a discount style supermarket, you get a worse customer service. I once had to wait 20 minutes just to pay because only one of the four staff that could be seen was at a checkout, and he couldn't figure out how to deal with some rebate coupons a customer had. The others couldn't be bothered to help the customers stuck in the queue by opening another checkout. One French customer became so angry that he left his articles on the spot and left the store.

"Shock price!"

Or prix choc in French. Seen on a bundle with 3 packs of chocolate biscuits in Auchan Avignon, stacked up for volume sales. However, the shock was not that the price for the bundled pack was very low but that it was more expensive to buy one bundle with 3 packs than 3 individual packs of the same product of the same weight. Similar example from the same supermarket where it was cheaper to peel off the plastic holding 6 bottles of Perrier together and buy them individually than to buy the bundled pack. Illegal? No. They didn't say the bundled price was lower, just that the price was a shock. In such cases, they sometimes place the big stack of overpriced, bundled products far from the individual products on the shelf so it is more difficult to compare the price. The French consumer association UFC - Que Choisir has investigated this subject and found it to be common in all supermarkets (article Grandes surfaces - Promos bidons par lots entiers dated 24 June 2008). The only solution is to be vigilant.

What you see is not what you pay

In same Auchan Avignon, a detergent was stacked up and large signs mentioned a low price. Next to it, there was a just as large stack of the same detergent bundled with a softener. But the large sign only mentioned one price, and it was not obvious to figure out if it applied to both products or just the single detergent. I finally asked, and I was shown a small price label near the bottom of the crate holding the bundled products, very discreetly placed. If you are in a hurry, you probably just read the big sign with the wrong price, believing it applies to the bundled product, and you don't notice when it's another price coming out when you pay. These price differences do matter if your budget is limited.

Another example from Auchan Avignon is a sign showing 2 bottles of soft drink at a promotional price according to their catalogue. But when you pay, it's the full price. Explanation: There were some bundled packs with the low price, but they have already been sold. Left are the single bottles of which you can take two, but the sign doesn't say that the promotion is only for the bundled products.

A third example from the same supermarket: A large pile of pasta and a large promotion sign for pasta. Just not the pasta that the promotion applies to but some other, obviously more expensive brand.

Some shops use the tactic of putting one type of article on promotion, putting up a large sign with a low price, and then - very close to the first products - placing products so similar - same brand, same packaging, same description, all matching the description on the promotion sign - that the customers don't notice the difference, except if they check the price on the back of the packaging. It is not a mistake, because if you ask, they refuse to sell at the lower price shown. The shopkeepers know very well that customers will quickly mix the two types of products, and some will eventually end up buying what they thought were discounted products at a higher price. This has been seen in Galerie Lafayette in the 2008 January sales in the menswear department - and reported to the Direction Générale da la Concurrence, Consommation et Répression des Fraudes (DGCCRF), the authority that monitors that sort of price games.

The price shown on an item is not what they put on your bill. It is most common for quickly changing items like fruit and vegetables and promotions. "reduction" - "promotion" - "buy one - get one free" - "sales" - etc. all mean you should verify your bill. In particular, some supermarkets leave promotion price tags on the shelves several days after the promotions have expired but charge you the full price - that may not even be displayed on the shelf. Many supermarkets have bar code readers where you can check the price of an item before paying. If it doesn't match the price displayed, and the bar code on the item is the same as the bar code under the price displayed, go to the accueil to ask them to have the correct price applied. They are legally obliged to sell the item for the price displayed, but you may have to insist and ask to speak to a manager before they give in. If you take the trouble to verify this, you will find out that it is not uncommon. A survey by the French consumer authority DGCCRF in 2011 gave the following results:
- In 54% of the supermarkets checked, they found prices displayed that were different from the prices charged.
- For 7% of the articles verified, the prices displayed and charged were different.
- In 6 out of 10 cases, the error was in the supermarket's favour.
This authority recommends checking the bill before leaving the supermarket. An article in Le Figaro discussed this survey.

Luring you into the shop with catalogue promotions that are sold out

Supermarkets regularly distribute catalogues with promotions to lure you into the shop. The promotions are valid during a particular period written in the catalogue. But when you get there, the discounted products you wanted are already sold. Shops have been fined for this, and according to the law, it must be possible to order the product if sold out during the period shown in the catalogue.

Cheating with promotional prices by packing several items together

A Dia supermarket had 2-litre Coca-Cola bottles on promotion. The price on the shelf was correct, indicated per bottle. The bottles were packed together in units of four bottles each, as they often are. When I checked my sales ticket, I noticed that a higher price had been charged for the Coca-Cola, so I returned and asked why the price was wrong. The explanation was that I should have removed the plastic packaging that kept the four bottles together so they were scanned one by one. The scanned price of the unit of four bottles was higher than four times the promotional bottle price. They refunded but not without hinting that I should have removed the packaging, as it was clear that the price was per bottle.

Such scams are what you have to deal with in France. Some supermarkets are worse than others.

Small packaging cheaper per kg than large
Large "ECO" packaging more expensive per kg than small units

Consumers have been taught that the price per kg is cheaper if one buys a large packaging than a small. Supermarkets more and more abuse that presumption to make large packaging more expensive per kg than small packaging. Examples: Canned tuna, toothpaste, chocolate, cereals, mayonnaise. Even large packaging labelled "ECO" may be more expensive per kg than the smaller packs.

"75 cent instant reduction at the checkout"

That's another typical promotion type. Very simple. Cash in hand. Except that the checkout staff often forgets to peel off the reduction sticker and credit it to your bill, so you either lose the reduction or have to go back to the supermarket - spending fuel for €2 to get a reduction of 75 cent. If you care about these reductions, you may want to keep the items concerned apart in your trolley so you don't forget the stickers.

"€1 refunded"

In other types of promotion, you have to post a letter with the bar code, the ticket with the reduced item and its price encircled, your name, address and bank account number and perhaps other documentation in order to obtain your refund a couple of months later - sometimes a complete refund of a product. In most cases, it is refunded directly to your bank account. It's often later than the limit they say. They often refund the 48 cents it cost to send the letter, but you must ask for it. If you care about these reductions, read the instructions very carefully. If you don't want to send the whole supermarket ticket, ask for a ticket for just that item at the checkout. You may need the ticket in case of problems with another item.

25% reduction

If a sign says 25% reduction on certain items, then watch out if the reduction has already been applied to the prices shown or not. If it has been deducted already, then the label should say so, but it is not always the case, as I once noticed in an Office Depot.

Passing 'compatible' products off as original

When buying spare parts or consumables, for example printer toner or ink, you will find that a large number of 'compatible' products are on offer, as well as recycled products and used products.

First of all, you need to decide what you want. Do you accept non-original products or not? 

On one hand, you have the device manufacturer that discourage use of non-original parts. It is in their interest to sell original parts, but non-original parts may occasionally cause technical problems. If you buy original parts only, you are in a better position in case of problems with the device covered by the warranty, and you avoid any worries about the parts not fulfilling the specifications or causing damage.

On the other hand, there are obvious savings to be had by buying un-original parts, at least in the short term. In rare cases, these savings may be reversed into a loss if the un-original parts cause damage to the device. They may also reduce the printing quality or not last as long as the original parts. I do not have concrete examples of this, though. What I do have examples of is non-original ink cartridges not working at all. I don't know in how many cases there are problems. I know of no way to assure that 'compatible' parts are 100% compatible.

The decision is yours.

Once the decision taken, you need to be sure what you buy is what you want.

If you use a price compare engine, it won't distinguish between original and non-original parts, used parts, and recycled parts. You need to check that on each retailer website.

Most sites don't hide that the parts are not original. That fact that the price is half that of original parts also indicates the parts are not original. But some websites price their non-original parts close to the price of original parts. Such sites may sometimes try to hide the fact that the parts are non original. You may have to read between the lines in the worst cases.

However much I don't want to see one site obtaining a de facto monopoly or domination, I often end up with the conclusion that Amazon France, UK or Germany, including their Marketplace, is the cheapest and most transparent place to buy parts. It isn't always the case, of course. If you are pressed for time, you won't go wrong in general by buying Amazon. Another advantage is their no-nonsense customer service policy. If you have more time available, you may sometimes obtain savings by searching more for low prices.

Showing prices exclusive of VAT ('sales tax')

It is illegal in France, as in most of Europe, to show prices intended for consumers that don't include all applicable taxes, notably the value added tax, VAT, whether online or in shops. It is rare that this regulation is breached, but it does occasionally happen. Be sure to double-check the total amount due before paying, not least to assure that abusively high postage and packaging fees or unwanted options have been added. Reference: Arrêté of 3 December 1987 Article 1.

French post

Be sure to read my page about post in France and how to avoid the pitfalls and optimise spending on postal services.

The customer is always wrong

If something you buy has a defect that you couldn't know about when you bought it, then the shop is liable to repair or refund you, and without any limitation in time. Furthermore, as a transposition of European law, the French code de la consommation stipulates that there is a two-year legal warranty of conformity and that during the first six months, any defect is presumed to have existed at the time of delivery, unless the shopkeeper can prove otherwise.

Shopkeepers obviously aren't too keen about these parts of the law, so they play ignorant, hoping the consumer doesn't know his rights, and they don't inform ordinary shop staff about these consumer rights.

The bad excuses you will get from shopkeepers are endless:
- "you have used the article, so we can't take it back".
- "as you can see on the receipt, we only take articles back for up to ten days",
- "we are not responsible for that, try to contact the manufacturer or importer",
- "you have used it in a way you shouldn't",
- "there is no warranty on that type of article".

This dishonest behaviour is universal, whether it is a high-street store with a decent reputation or not.

The first thing to do is always to be courteous and friendly and explain the problem from your side including your consumer rights that the shop can't change. Asking for the manager would be the next step. Asking for his manager again a third step it the first manager doesn't solve it.

I once had to argue 30 minutes with 2 managers at IKEA before they would refund 45 € for a broken sun shade that was only 2 months old. Same thing in an Auchan supermarket concerning an electric toy helicopter that simply didn't have enough power to take off.

If the shop is part of a network, it may help to write to the managing director of the headquarters as I had to do with MERCEDES-BENZ. Try to find his name on their corporate website. If you've bought what you consider a quality brand and the retailer cannot fix it, then it may help to write to the manufacturer of the item, because they have an interest in preserving their quality image. That's what I had to do when DARTY had sent the same repairman around 5 times without being able to fix a new MIELE dishwasher. Ironically, Darty's slogan is: le contrat de confiance.

You will rarely be treated rudely at a high-street shop, but that can easily happen in smaller shops online or offline. Look at this reply from the online electronic store 2galli when I was complaining they had taken payment for equipment online without informing me they didn't have all the articles in stock and that there would be more than two weeks' delay:

"JE NE PEUX PAS TECHNIQUEMENT REMBOURSER PAR CB !!!! Est-ce-vous comprenez ce que j'écris ?"

(I CAN'T TECHNICALLY REFUND BY CREDIT CARD!!!! Do you understand what I am writing?")

 The purchase was paid by credit card and all I had asked for was a refund to that same credit card since they hadn't delivered, telling them to debit again once they had the articles in stock, in polite tones. This is not an exceptional, rare case. I would rather pay a bit more to have articles shipped from the UK than put up with such a rude treatment.

Of course, there are decent online and offline shops in France, you just need to be quite sceptical.

Check that a retailer is not bankrupt before buying

Any retailer in any country can go bankrupt. This can be a receivership where the purpose is to help the business continue trading or a liquidation where the shop will be closed and debt written off. It happens that even well-known retailers go bankrupt, leaving customers who have paid without getting the goods they paid for, and with no possibility of getting the goods or obtaining a refund. is the best site to check this at no cost ("Documents Légaux" tab). A business in receivership may try to lower prices to attract more customers and to appear at the top of price comparison sites.


Be vigilant. Check and double check. No one else does it for you.

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