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Know your rights to summer leisure

To make sure things go smoothly, it helps to be aware of your rights.

THERE are plenty of activities to enjoy in France this summer, but to make sure things go smoothly, it helps to be aware of your rights.

The anti-fraud and consumer rights body DGCCRF has produced a 2010 guide to enjoying the summer holidays. It tells you, for example, if a restaurateur can refuse to allow children or pets – and if they must serve tapwater; what the regulations are on beaches or children’s play areas; and what measures riding centres must take to keep your children safe.

Tourism Minister Hervé Novelli says 2010 is the “year of revival” and he is determined to ensure that no tourist in France is put off by dubious practices. He has launched the internet-based guide, alongside a series of leaflets available from motorway service areas.

The guide explains that restaurateurs in France cannot legally ban children (or foreigners or people of different races or religions) from their dining rooms: they face two years’ jail and a fine of €30,000 for doing so. However, they may charge for each child, even if they do not eat anything, if the menu mentions un prix de couvert pour les enfants (place setting charge for children).

As for pets, while many French restaurants do in fact allow them, they are not obliged to. If they do accept them, they can insist they be kept on a lead.

On the other hand, they do have to give tapwater on request (une carafe d’eau). This dates from law N° 25-268 of June 8, 1967, which says restaurateurs must include the price of bread, tapwater, spices or ingredients, plates, glasses and napkins in the price of the meal shown.

However, there is no such obligation on cafes and bistros to provide water – not even with an espresso.

Restaurants cannot refuse to seat a single person, however busy they are, but in such circumstances you must accept the place they offer you.

You can refuse a dish if you think it is too cold or is not fresh, and it must be replaced, but not just because you don't like the taste. You can also refuse a wine, for example if it is bouchonné (corked).

At riding centres, the management must hold a carte professionnelle from the ministry of agriculture, instructors’ diplomas should be posted in the reception area and the centre must have insurance for its staff and guests.

Safety equipment such as riding hats, jackets, shoulder protectors etc. should be in good condition and have the CE quality mark.

Establishments advertised as fermes equestres (farms where you can take part in riding) must be working farms that breed horses.

At the beach, you can access the majority of waterside areas – although some can be zoned off for security, defence or environmental reasons. Beaches are looked after by local authorities and they can rent out areas to beach clubs and watersports sites, as long as they do not take more than 30% of the beach area.

Such plagistes must leave an open area large enough to allow free circulation along the water front. Beach safety equipment such as waterwings or lifejackets (eg. for using pedalos or windsurfing) must have the CE standard mark.

Children’s play areas are also subject to strict rules in France; for example, each piece of equipment should have a notice showing the suitable age range and warnings of any associated risks (which can be done with drawings). The areas should be sheltered from any risks associated with traffic, or activities such as barbecuing, boules, cycling etc, and the trees and plants must be picked so as not to pose risks of injury or poisoning.

Find more on your leisure rights on the internet version of the guide at

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