At these new computer terminals you can buy train tickets, sort out car certificat d’immatriculation (carte grise) forms, change address, scan and email documents – and if you get stuck, the shopkeeper is on hand to help.
The terminals in tabacs were developed by Proxigital, the company behind the “bank accounts without a bank” service Compte Nickel, now taken over by BNP Paribas.
‘Compte Nickel’ bank accounts, opened in tabacs, provide simple, no-overdraft current accounts, with a card and bank identity details – a lifeline for those who have trouble with banks but need an account for wages to be paid into.
Anne-Sophie Perrachon, president of Proxigital, said: “Working on Compte Nickel really opened my eyes to the ability of tabacs in France to be close to people.
“When BNP Paribas bought us out, it gave me the chance to do other things, yet it made sense to work in the same area as I had before. There is a real demand from people who would otherwise be excluded by the move of shops and administration from real life places on to the internet.”
The new terminals, called La Borne des Buralistes, will provide services to the 13% of the French population who it is estimated do not have home access to the internet and who do not have, or know how to use, the internet on smartphones.
Other everyday tasks which could be accomplished there include consulting insurance sites and buying insurance online, and taking digital photos. The first 45 terminals are already in use and at least another 300 will be deployed in 2021, followed by 1,000 a year until all tabacs have them. They are assembled in two factories in France.
In future, you could pay bills, transfer money, fill out official forms – or even charge your phone.
The terminals are free for tabac owners, who receive a commission from Proxigital for each service performed – and the promise of more people in their shops.
Proxigital will make money from the firms and businesses whose services are in its machines.
Prices for products such as insurance are negotiated so customers will receive offers at least equal to the lower prices on the internet. Like petrol pumps, the screens will show advertising when the terminals are not in use.
As a start-up, the company is banned from offering services such as digital tax returns or other government services. After three years, it intends to bid to be able to provide these too.
Tabacs have been hit by price hikes on cigarettes and have since sought ways to diversify. Another company to see their potential is money transfer service Brinks. It plans to launch Point Cash Service.
People can shop online, then go into a tabac with a barcode and pay for their goods in cash.