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Crit'Air, breakdowns, savings: 9 changes you may have missed in France

In case you have been on holiday, here is a handy summary of what is new in France

It can be hard to keep up with the changes in France, so to help we have compiled this list Pic: Pikselstock / GERARD BOTTINO / mimagephotography / Ira Sokolovskaya / Shutterstock

1. Plastic packaging

A law limiting the sale of fruit and vegetables in plastic packaging came into force in July.

Apples, oranges, grapes and avocados are among the products that can no longer be sold in plastic wrapping, except under certain circumstances.

Supermarkets are allowed to exhaust existing stock of plastic-wrapped fruit and vegetables until the end of the year.

There are partial exemptions for products weighing over 1.5 kg and fruits that are sold already fully ripened as well as full exemptions for 29 fruits and vegetables that risk being damaged if sold loose.

These fragile products include mushrooms, new potatoes, strawberries and blueberries.

The full list of exemptions is available here.

Read more: France’s president wants to cut plastic pollution. How can I help?

2: Benefit changes

State benefits that require beneficiaries to reside in France will no longer be paid into non-Sepa bank accounts, in a move designed to tackle welfare fraud.

This applies to family benefits paid by the Caf (caisses d'allocations familiales), RSA benefits for job-seekers, Aspa pension top-up benefit, and the Allocation supplémentaire d’invalidité disability allowance.

The Sepa – Single Euro Payments Area – covers the whole of the EU and EEA, Switzerland the European microstates, and the UK. 

This means those receiving these benefits into a UK bank account will not be affected by the move. 

Read also: Do second home owners in France need a French bank account?

3: Health monitoring

The costs of monitoring patients from a distance are now covered by French public health insurance (Assurance Maladie), in a European first.

This covers monitoring of patients with chronic conditions by video or by biomedical device, including glycemic monitors and pacemakers. 

Télésurveillance means patients do not need to make as many in-person trips to their healthcare practitioner.

Government decrees will outline the eligibility criteria for each condition at a later time.

Read more: Remote monitoring of patients in France moves into the mainstream

4: Repair bonus increase delayed

Changes to the cash bonus for people who get their appliances repaired, which was expected to double in value from July 1, have been delayed.

The bonus réparation offers between €10 and €45 for taking electronic appliances to certified repairers rather than replacing them by buying new products.

The government has said discussions are continuing, and it hopes to implement new rates from October, but the increase could be less significant than previously announced.

They are also urging other major retailers such as Darty, FNAC and Apple to join the scheme. 

On top of this, a clothing repair bonus scheme is in the pipeline, also slated to come into force in October.

Read more: France doubles cash bonus for repairing appliances. How can I benefit?

5: Breakdown fees

Motorway breakdown recovery charges have increased from €138.01 to €144.52 for cars that need towing to a nearby garage. 

For vehicles weighing between 1.8 and 3.5 tonnes, the cost has jumped from €170.65 to €178.70.

Charges for out-of-hours breakdown (18:00-06:00, plus weekends and public holidays) have risen by 50% to €216.78 and €268.05, depending on the size of the vehicle.

These costs will be in place for the next 12 months, until a revision of prices in 2024.

Repairing or towing a vehicle that has broken down on the motorway can only be carried out by an approved professional, contacted using the orange phone boxes on the roadside, or the SOS Autoroute app.

Most of the time, this payout is covered by your insurer, but this is not always the case.

Read more: French motorway breakdown fees have gone up, here is what you pay now

6: Crit’Air changes

All but five of the 11 cities with low-emission zones (Zones à faibles émissions, or ZFEs) will be able to introduce restrictions at a slower pace due to a fall in pollution levels.

Paris, Lyon, Marseille, Rouen and Strasbourg must still ban Crit’Air 4 vehicles in 2024 and Crit’Air 3 in 2025, but the other ZFEs no longer have to tighten restrictions.

The 31 cities yet to implement a ZFE will only have to ban pre-1997 cars in 2025.

Read more: Where in France are low-emission zone restrictions being eased?

7: Livret A rates remain the same

The interest rate on state-regulated Livret A savings accounts will remain at 3% in August and until January 2025. It is usually revised every six months.

The economic model used to calculate the rates would have set this at 4.1%, but the Banque de France said an increase could lead to a large drop next year, and would also have been detrimental to growth.

Most banks offer Livret A accounts, which are exempt from tax and social charges, but you cannot deposit more than €22,950.

The rate of the Livret d’Epargne Populaire, for people on low incomes, will go from 6.1% to 6%.

Additionally, money stored in a plans épargne logement (PELs) or home savings plan loans – which usually have to be held for four years before they can be used – can now be used immediately for ecological property renovations.

Read more: France will keep Livret A savings rate the same for next 18 months

8: Weather alerts sent for the first time

France’s system of sending alerts to smartphones was used for extreme weather in metropolitan France for the first time in July. 

The FR-Alert system sends messages to French and foreign phones currently in the area to warn them of a potential danger – in this case, people in eastern France were alerted to imminent violent storms. 

No app is needed, your phone must simply be turned on and not on aeroplane mode.

Read more: France sends first emergency weather alerts: how do warnings work?

9: Miscarriage law

French MPs have approved a law that will provide better support to women who have experienced a miscarriage.

Women will be able to benefit from paid sick leave without the first three days being unpaid. The Health Minister said this will take effect as soon as possible and by January 1 next year at the latest.

Midwives will also be able to refer patients to psychologists for reimbursed sessions as part of the MonParcoursPsy scheme.

Read also: How to get free mental health support in France

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