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Consumer watchdog's 12-point buying power plan

UFC-Que Choisir publishes its suggestions to increase spending power in France by €9billion a year - without putting any further pressure on public finances...

Consumer watchdog UFC-Que Choisir has proposed 12 'concrete measures' to boost purchasing power 'without additional burden on public finances' that - it says - will add more than €320 to individual household bank balances every year.

As the government grapples with appeasing protesters such as the gilets jaunes, UFC-Que Choisir says it's "sustainable increase in purchasing power of more than €9billion" would be achieved by tackling head-on what it has called "market failures". It said - for example - abolishing minimum mark-up on products, which came into force on February in an effort to ensure fair pay for farmers and food producers, would save consumers €800million a year.

Other measures the watchdog suggested include, rent supervision and health insurance reform, making it easier to switch bank accounts, extending legal guarantees and reform of driver training.

The 12 measures proposed by the UFC-Que Choisir:

  1. Ensure lower agricultural prices are passed on to consumers. The watchdog said this could save buyers up to €340million a year: "Too often, some manufacturers or distributors take advantage of lower agricultural prices to boost their margins".
  2. Cancel the minimum mark-up, which UFC-Que Choisir said costs households €800million a year
  3. Stop banks charging 'intervention fees' in the event of a banking incident. UFC-Que Choisir said these automatic charges 'have no economic legitimacy', yet cost customers €2.8billion a year.
  4. Make it easier to change banks, by allowing customers to keep their account numbers, thus increasing competition. The French switch banks three times less often than people in other European countries due to the high cost of bank charges.
  5. Simplify and streamline aid for householders who want to make energy savings in their properties. UFC-Que Choisir said a 'single, progressive system supporting the most efficient work' would save consumers €450million.
  6. Apply the 'polluter pays' principle for drinking water. According to UFC-Que Choisir, consumers pay most in taxes on consumption and pollution in their water bills. Clamping down on polluters would save end users some €1.04billion, it said
  7. Extend the legal warranty period of products to counteract the principle of planned obsolescence and encourage manufacturers to produce longer-lasting goods.
  8. Oversee rents in high-pressure areas. Rent controls have worked in Paris and Lille, UFC-Que Choisir said. They should be made mandatory in all areas where there is pressure on housing.
  9. Make it easier for consumers to compare and change health insurance providers, to save €1.2billion. The watchdog said: "Unreadable and incomparable offers, difficult termination: the complementary health insurance market does not play the game of competition to the benefit of consumers."
  10. Limit overruns on medical fees. The watchdog said that overruns, which are usually not covered by supplementary health insurance have more than doubled in the last 15 years, and now cost patients some €650million a year.
  11. Reform driving lessons to cut the cost of new drivers getting their licence. Promoting online driving schools, changing examination rules, and by allowing independent teachers to offer additional hours' practice would cut the cost of obtaining a licence by €365million nationwide, without compromising safety.
  12. Liberalise the sale of car body parts. UFC-Que Choisir said: "Car manufacturers alone decide who has the right to manufacture and sell body parts. As a result, the price of these parts, and therefore of car repairs, is much higher in France than elsewhere in Europe." This measure would save €415million a year.

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