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New rules in France against misleading discounts and fake reviews

The European directive includes punishments of up to €300,000 and two years in prison depending on the offence

A sign in a shop with -80% discount

Shops will only be able to advertise discounts that reflect the real price drop, among other rules brought in by a new EU directive Pic: Natali Kuzina / Shutterstock

France has introduced stricter regulations against misleading sales tactics in shops, including false discounts, door-to-door salespeople, and false online reviews.

From Saturday 28, new rules from a European directive dubbed ‘Omnibus’ have come into force. The directive applies across Europe, and includes harsher sanctions for shops that breach the rules.

Misleading discounts

For example, if a shop advertises a “50% sale” on a product from €850 to €425, but the product was previously sold at €500 (not €850), then that would be a breach of the rules, as the real discount is actually €75, not the advertised €42

Shops that breach the rules will now be punished by a fine of up to €300,000, and two years in prison

Shops will only be able to advertise discounts based on the lowest amount a product has been sold for. For example, if a shop first sold a product at €90 in March, then lowered the price to €60, it would only be able to advertise a discount on the 60 in the event of a further promotion.

Door-to-door sales

Door-to-door salespeople are also subject to the new regulation. If you indicate that you do not wish to be visited by these sellers, but they visit anyway, they can be subject to a fine of up to €150,000 and up to a year in prison.

Fake online reviews

False online reviews will also be banned. Websites will now be required to verify that those leaving reviews have actually bought the item or service in question. Breaching this rule will be punished by up o €300,000 and a prison sentence of up to two years.

John Hornell, vice president of Pasabi, a company that provides authentication solutions for online businesses, said: "Europe is taking the lead in increasing regulation of marketplaces and e-commerce sites. Many US companies operating in Europe will have to follow suit.”

Concealing details

Concealing details such as a product still being under guarantee, or having any existing defects, the fine will be €15,000 (rather than €3,000 before), and can even reach €75,000 in some cases.

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