Maximum fines of €375,000 were levied against 11 top companies, who included three state-controlled businesses: La Poste whose 2017 turnover was €24billion, lottery firm Française des Jeux, whose turnover was €15bn and Ile-de-France public transport group RATP, with €5.5bn of turnover.
Energy giant Engie’s subsidiary Endel was also fined the maximum as were bank Société Générale, cosmetics group Sephora, TV and telecoms firm CANAL+ International, freight company DHL Freight, energy and communications group Spie Ile-de-France Nord-Ouest and British oil and gas engineers Technip FMC.
Finance Minister Delphine Gény-Stephann said: “Naming and shaming can improve companies’ behaviour with regard to late payment. Businesses must know they are taking a risk in breaking the law.”
Her department highlighted that the €375,000 fines imposed were the maximum possible at the time of the offences in 2014 but the new Loi Sapin 2 had increased this ceiling to €2m.
In all, 116 businesses were fined, with the likes of sweets firm Haribo paying €140,000.
Since 2009 it has been law that bills should be paid within 60 days of the date of the facture or 45 days from the end of the month and ministers said too many firms still ignored it.
The government said it forced smaller companies to seek short-term finance to cover money that should have been in their accounts – and even risked their failure.
In all, it was estimated it cost PME businesses €16bn and cash-flow problems were blamed for one in four business failures.
Late-payers were caught in an inquiry by the Dgccrf fraud agency that covered 1,500 businesses as the government toughened enforcement.
This is the first year companies have been named and shamed but a similar inquiry last year investigated 2,600 businesses and caught 230 who were fined a total of €15m.