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Shops and offices turn off lights

Energy-saving law will black out buildings - but small businesses highlight safety problems in "curfew"

SHOPS and offices will be forced to switch off their lights at night-time under a new energy-saving law.

The law, announced with a barrage of other environmental measures last December, is due to be published in the Journal Officiel in the coming days and come into effect on July 1.

External lights in "non-residential" buildings would have to be switched off between 1.00 and 6.00 - and the Ecology Ministry is talking with traders' and business federations about extending the switch-off to internal lighting.

Turning off both internal and external lighting across France could save the power needed to heat and light 700,000 homes. The measure on external lighting could save the power of 260,000 households.

City centre traders' groups have called for some easing of the restrictions in the grands magasins of the Boulevard Haussmann, Champs-Elysées and in large cities - and also in areas with a lively night life - and the ministry has said it is not opposed.

However, the federation of small businesses CGPME has attacked the proposals for a "curfew" as "irrelevant and unacceptable".

It highlighted safety problems, saying: "People, without any way of knowing if an establishment is open, will be hesitant about going into a hotel, a petrol station, a discotheque or a hospital if the outside is in total darkness.

"Can one really imagine withdrawing money from a bank cash machine if it's in darkness?"

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