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France mulls forcing 37 professions to cut fees

Joshua Melvin · 15 Jul 2014, 12:36

Published: 15 Jul 2014 12:36 GMT+02:00

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If you have ever got the impression the fees charged by driving schools, legal workers and certain health industry professionals were outrageous, France’s top fiscal watchdog has noticed too.

In a reported leaked to French financial newspaper Les Echos France’s Inspection Générale de Finances (IGF) says an investigation has named 37 regulated professions that are making more money than any other economic sector while at the same time sending out hefty bills.  

The report singled out professions such as notaries, pharmacists, the makes of dental prosthesis, lawyers, driving instructors and several other legal professions.

If the finance ministry decides to act on the report, it could mean good news for consumers in France.

“We don’t want to prevent them from making a living. But they must understand that in a moment when everyone is making an effort, they can make one too,” Secretary of State for Government Reform Thierry Mandon told i-Télé news. “Several options are possible, particularly the reintroduction of a bit of competition because competition lowers prices."

Topping the black list were “greffiers” in commercial courts, who are similar to recorders or clerks. "Greffiers" made €44 in profit out of every €100 their clients paid them. That means their average net pay per month is around €10,000, Les Echos claimed.

'Many professions in a monopoly position'

The IGF found the rate of profitability for the 37 trades it earmarked is some 2.4 times the rate for the rest of the economy. The reason being the professions are protected by entry barriers such as education, but also minimum required fees and a monopoly for performing certain functions.

To put these professions' earnings into perspective, their one million employees pulled in €42 billion in profits or 6.4 percent of the total economy, Les Echos reported.

These eye-opening figures come as part of a report ordered by former Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici, which details 30 measures by which the government could help save consumers €6 billion.

Last week Economy Minister Arnaud Montebourg suggested that France's finance ministry at Bercy was prepared to target certain professions, which were taking advantage of the lack of competition.

"Many professions are in a monopoly position and set their prices at a level that hits the purchasing power of households," he said.

Story continues below…

Taxi drivers have already felt a bit of the pinch of competition, with private car hire services like Uber cutting into their market share. The arrival of these alternatives to taxis, called Voitures Tourism avec Chauffeur (VTC) in France, prompted angry wild cat strikes form taxis that have snarled French roads this year.

Cabies, who must spend thousands of euros on licenses and training, have said the lightly-regulated VTCs amount to unfair competition. Though the government is working to change the rules for taxis to make them more competitive. Lawmakers in the National Assembly backed the reform last week. 

Joshua Melvin (joshua.melvin@thelocal.com)

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