Gas prices and some benefits up

July 1 sees list of changes with increases in some prices but boost for jobless and low-paid

GAS prices went up today among several changes that come into force on July 1 including increased benefits for the jobless, increased VAT on some domestic service jobs and a clampdown on commercial buildings being lit at night. Tobacco prices will rise 20 centimes on July 15.

Today is a traditional date for changes to be introduced and 11 million households will see their gas bills rise 0.5% after a series of price reductions this year.

Tariffs fell 0.5% on February 1, 0.3% on March 1 and 0.6% on June 1 as GDF Suez and the government moved away from the previous pricing arrangements where gas prices were tied to “spot” oil market prices.

Two out of three jobless will see a little extra in their benefits from this month as the allocation-chômage in increased by 7 centimes for some claimants and 17 for others, depending on category. The minimum “dole” pay is now €850 a month.

Low-paid people on health benefits get a boost with the maximum income limit to claim the Couverture maladie universelle - a system to give health benefits for the less well-off – rising by 8.3% and a similar rise in the maximum limit for the aide à la complémentaire santé.

VAT on certain household services, such as gardening work, piano lessons, computer help and some security services will rise to 19.6% from the present 5.5%. The change was ordered by the EU which said France had applied the aid too widely – it was initially meant for services such as home helps, school tutoring and child minding.

Offices and shops will be obliged to switch off non-essential lighting between 1.00 and 7.00 in a move that could save the equivalent of the annual usage of 750,000 households and cut company energy bills by €200million.

For tourists, the reduction in roaming mobile phone wills comes into force today across the EU. The maximum mobile data roaming rate is cut by 36%.

Expected increases in tobacco prices have been delayed until July 15 – when smokers get a break and will pay an extra 20 centimes a pack instead of the 40 centimes demanded by the health minister.

Marlboro, the No1 brand, rises from €6.60 to €6.80 in a move that saw the Finance Ministry and tobacco lobbies win out against Health Minister Marisol Touraine.

She had demanded a 40 centime increase to persuade smokers to give up, but tobacco companies argued such an increase would only lead to a massive increase in smuggling and the closure of tabacs across the country.