New laws and changes in France: July 2020

New travel rules, caps on bank fees, payment of bills in newsagents, new rules for electromagnetic wave devices, cigarette packet costs, and “smooth” gas prices - here’s what changes in France from today (July 1).

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Travellers from outside EU allowed to come into France

Europe and the Schengen Area have now reopened their external borders to 15 countries, with the list set to be re-evaluated every two weeks.

See the full list, including countries allowed, and those not yet permitted, here.

Read more: EU external borders now open to some countries, but not US

Caps on bank fees

Some bank fees are set to be reduced or capped from July 1, as the Loi Pacte comes into force.

For example, under the new rules, the opening of a savings plan (such as a plan d'épargne en actions (PEA) or a plan d'épargne en actions destiné au financement des PME et ETI (PEA-PME)) will cost a maximum of €10.

Fees for these accounts will be capped at 0.4% per year of the total amount.

Read more: Changing bank account in France ‘still too difficult’

Electromagnetic wave information

From July, all devices intended to be used near the body, which emit electromagnetic waves will have to put their DAS (débit d'absorption spécifique or specific absorption flow rate) somewhere on their label or packaging.

These include devices such as smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and Bluetooth headsets.

National frequency agency l'Agence Nationale des Fréquences (ANFR) has said: “This requirement will allow consumers to choose their tools with knowledge.”

Yo-yo-ing cigarette prices

Some cigarette packets will see a rise in price of 10-20 centimes, but others are set to drop in price, depending on the brand.

For example, a packet of Camel Shift is set to rise from €9.60 to €9.80, and a packet of Elixyr from €9.20 to €9.30.

Yet, a packet of Winston Connect Blue will drop from €9.50 to €9.40.

A full list of the brands and prices can be found on the government’s website here.

In 2017, the ministry for health said that it would aim for a packet of cigarettes to cost €10 by 2020.

Read more: Most popular cigarettes in France now cost €10 a pack

‘Smooth’ gas prices

Regulated gas prices - set by the government - are to be “smoothed out” in future months, to avoid any possible harsh rises in future, said energy commission la Commission de régulation de l'énergie (CRE).

The average tariff would have dropped by 5.1% from July 1 according to normal calculations but it will now drop by just 0.3%, to avoid too sharp a rise in winter.

Read more: French government gives up gas price control

Smart thermostat aid

From July 1, households are eligible for financial aid to install a smart thermostat. The financial help was brought in by ecology minister Elisabeth Borne to allow people to install more eco-friendly and cost-efficient devices.

This will include aid of up to €150 for the installation, with capacity to install 20,000-40,000 per month.

Paying taxes in tobacco shops

Individuals may now pay their taxes, fees, fines, cantine bills, hospital bills, creche fees and pool entrance fees in 4,700 tobacco shops (bureaux de tabac / newsagents) across France.

Users will need to scan their bill code to pay, but the newsagent themselves will only see the cost, and not the contents or the type of bill, for confidentiality reasons.

Card payments will be encouraged for ease; payments by cash will be capped at €300 per transaction.

Blindspot signage

Blindspots must now be labelled on heavy goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes. They must now have stickers on them, clearly showing where their blindspots are, to warn pedestrians and cyclists.

Vehicles that do not comply risk a fine.

New laws on electric scooters (trottinettes)

A decree from October 2019 is set to come into force from today.

These include limiting speed to 25 kph - which was already the case - plus a legal threshold for motorised scooters, which now must be under 90cm width and 135cm long maximum. Most scooter models will comply with this already.

To be legally ridden on roads, electric scooters must also have a loud horn that can be heard 50m away, plus lights facing forwards and backwards.

Read more:

Rental caps in Paris

On July 1, new rent caps will come into place in Paris for a second year, after the scheme was first introduced on July 1, 2019.

The rent caps apply to furnished and unfurnished private properties in Paris, and are slightly up this year compared to last, and vary considerably from one neighbourhood to another.

The full list for the Ile-de-France region can be found online here.

Unemployment benefits

Employment benefit rises have been recalculated at 0.4% from July 1. This follows a rise of 0.7% in 2019, and will apply to 92% of job seekers receiving unemployment benefit from July 1 - equating to three million people.

Unions abstained from voting their approval of this change, and had called for more.

Union CFDT said: “When 50% of benefit claimants receive less than €860 net per month, [we propose] a rise of 1.2%...[due to] changing costs, which significantly increased during confinement.”

Apprenticeship help

Companies that recruit an apprentice from July 1 to February 28 will now be entitled to €5,000 per hire of a minor, and €8,000 per hire of an adult.

Companies with more than 250 employees will be required to have at least 5% work-study students in their workforce by 2021.

Agricultural worker help

Housing group Action Logement is to pay a grant of €150, renewable three times, to agricultural seasonal workers that were employed during the health crisis, for rent payment.

Another grant is now available for agricultural workers who have suffered a drop in income as a result of the crisis.

New phase of chômage partiel (Covid-19 “partial unemployment”)

The “unemployment” status put in place by the government to help companies to weather the Covid-19 storm is changing from today.

A new status of “activité partielle longue durée” or “APLD” (long-term partial activity) is now available for industries affected by significant stoppage in activity due to the crisis - such as the aviation or automobile sectors.

This status will continue to guarantee “a high level of protection”, in the same way as chômage partiel. Up to 84% of the net worker salary will be paid by the government (and 100% for those on minimum wage).

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