THE bank that operates as France’s “official pawnbroker”, has extended its opening hours for the second time this year.
Since February 3, the Crédit Municipal de Paris (CMP) has been open for business until 6pm on weekdays and 5pm on Saturdays. Now, it will stay open every Thursday until 8pm.
The Parisian institution on Rue des Francs Bourgeois, which has been operating for more than 375 years and is known colloquially as “My Aunt”, offers small, low-interest loans against inexpensive valuables and reported a 15% rise in its pawnbroking activities last year. It deals with 700 customers every day.
The extended opening hours are intended to make CMP services accessible to more members of the public.
A Napoleonic law passed in 1804 banned private pawnbrokers in France. The state still holds a monopoly on pawnbroking services through the CMP, which charges interest rates of between 4% and 9% on money loaned on products brought in. If the loan is not repayed in a year, the goods can be auctioned to recoup the debt - but only 10% of goods make it to auction.
In their time, Victor Hugo and Emile Zola pawned goods at the CMP.
News of the extension of CMP’s opening hours comes as a survey of mayors across the country shows they believe that poverty in their communes is on the rise.
The study found that 80% of mayors believe the number of people living in poverty in their communes is rising. The last poll to ask the same question, in 2008, showed just 51% of mayors were worried about rising poverty.
Bernard Thibaud, general secretary of Catholic Relief Services which commissioned the poll, said: "In the Catholic Relief Services, we know that there is a sharp deterioration in poverty. But what surprised us was the extent of awareness of the mayors.”
Single parents and young unemployed people are more likely to have fallen into financial difficulty, the study said.
According to the survey, mayors have “made greater efforts” to help people in difficulty living in their areas, while 91% of them claim to have taken steps to “strengthen social ties” during their tenure.