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France cracks down on online shopping

Government considers new measures to regulate e-commerce and stamp out 'misleading and unfair practices'

THE FRENCH government is considering new measures to regulate e-commerce and attempt to make foreign sites respect French trading laws.

Business minister Frédéric Lefebvre has commissioned a report to investigate claims of "misleading and unfair practices" employed by online shops to the detriment of traditional retailers.

The French e-commerce industry grew by about 25 per cent last year. Mr Lefebvre said this level of growth meant it was only right that the government should "reinforce its vigilance".

A spokesman told Le Figaro that the investigation would "make sure that this expansion is not accompanied by practices that mislead customers and are unfair to other shops".

The government is particularly concerned about sites that are based overseas but sell to French consumers.

Sales are heavily regulated in France, with a fixed calendar; in most departments they start next week. However several online shops based abroad offer sales all year round.

Mr Lefebvre wants to ensure that sites are honest about discounts and make it clear to online shoppers if an item is cheaper to buy in-store.

There are also plans for better safety checks on products sold online, such as toys and food supplements.

The study is being carried out by the French Fashion Institute (IFM) and social research body Crédoc, which are due to report in March.

The French anti-fraud watchdog DGCCRF is also due to sign a protocol with the data protection body Cnil later this month that aims to better protect customers' personal data when shopping online.

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