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French banks are going to hike their charges once again

From January 1st 2017 anyone with a bank account in France can expect to pay a fair bit more for the pleasure of using it.

French banks are going to hike their charges once again
Photo: AFP

A new survey has revealed most banks will seriously hike their service charges, just as they did in 2016.

The study, carried out by bank comparator “Meilleurebank”, revealed most banks in France will raise their charges for “maintenance” of accounts.

These charges are set to rise by an average of 13 percent on January 1st.

Other charges such as when using debit cards in the cash machines of other banks will also go up by an average of 4.5 percent.

And the charges just for having the debit card itself will also rise by around 3 percent.

The hikes are put down to the fact that low interest rates on loans and mortgages means French banks need to find an alternative way to boost their profit margins.

Americans and British who move to France are often shocked that French banks impose charges for “account maintenance” and for having a debit card, because they often don’t exist back home.

This is taken from an article written for The Local called: Five tips for opening a bank account in France.

“While many banks in the US and UK have free checking, that concept does not really exist in France, especially since you're required to interact so often with your personal banker and can't complete all of your transactions online. You may pay a small fee for 'tenue de compte', or keeping the account open, as well as a monthly fee for your debit card.

“The debit card fee will depend on the options you choose: the weekly and monthly limits for cash withdrawal and debit transactions, the amount of insurance protection on the card, overdraft protection, and your choice between 'débit immédiat' – when your account is debited immediately for purchases, and 'débit différé', when your card is debited at the end of your month. You can choose between the basic cards with low limits, or gold and platinum visas that often offer perks like travel insurance.”

 

 

 

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MONEY

Reader Question: Why did my French electricity bill increase by more than 4%?

The French government has capped electricity prices rises at four percent - but as with many French rules, there are certain exceptions.

Reader Question: Why did my French electricity bill increase by more than 4%?

Question: I read in the media that electricity prices in France are capped at four percent, but I just got a letter from EDF telling me that my bill is going up by almost 20 percent – is this a mistake?

The French government’s bouclier tarifaire (tariff shield), froze gas prices at 2021 levels and capped electricity price hikes to four percent – it remain in place until at least the end of 2022.

However, there are some customers who will see increases to their bills of more than that – here’s why: 

The regulated tariff rate

The French government involvement in price-setting doesn’t just happen during periods of energy crisis, normally regulated tariff prices are updated twice a year: usually on February 1st and August 1st.

Typically, this value is calculated by the CRE (commission de régulation de l’énergie) and it is based on several different factors, which are explained on this government website. These tariffs proposed by the CRE are then subject to approval by the ministers in charge of energy and the economy.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why are French energy prices capped?

These affect the state-owned Engie (formerly Gaz de France), the mostly state-owned EDF and some local distribution companies. Around 70 percent of people in France get their electricity from EDF but other suppliers do exist in the market.

These alternative suppliers, like Direct-Énergie, Total Spring or Antargaz, are free to charge more – but don’t usually charge much above the EDF rates for obvious commercial reasons.

Basic rate

The government-set limit in price rises refers only to the basic rate (option base) for electricity.

This plan represents over 80 percent of the 32 million households connected to the electricity grid in France. So, there is a good chance you might be subscribed to this without even realising it. 

If you are on the basic tariff rate, your bill will not increase by more than four percent this year.

Other tariff options

However, other options for electricity bills do exist, including off-peak rates, green deals and fixed energy prices for a certain period.

Typically people who sign up for these will have been paying less for their electricity in the preceding months than those on the base rate.

However, there are certain special deals that are not covered by the four percent cap, and some users will find that their deal period has come to an end, they are then shifted onto the base rate – which is likely to represent a price increase for them of more than four percent.

It’s little consolation when faced with rising bills, but you will likely have been paying significantly less than customers who have been in the base rate for the past few years.

READ MORE: French government to continue energy price freeze until at least 2023

Kilowatt price

Because most electricity price plans are bafflingly complicated, the easiest way to compare is to look at the price per kilowatt-hour.

Your electricity bill consists of a fixed part, the monthly subscription (abonnement) and the variable part, which depends on the quantity of electricity consumed (in euro per kilowatt-hour, kWh). The latter part is what is concerned by the tariff shield of four percent.

Here is an example of what that might look like:

The mid-August base rate price per kilowatt-hour is €0.1740/ kWh, so if you’re with EDF they cannot charge you more than this rate.

Other EDF plans charge significantly less than that – for example the Vert Electrique Weekend deal has been charging €0.1080/kWh on weekends and €0.1434/kWh on weekdays. 

Bill rises

With the tariff shield, the average resident customer on the base rate will see a €38 rise on their bill this year, while professional customers will see an average of €60 rise. 

Without the tariff shield, electricity prices per residential (non-business) customer would likely have increased an average of €330 a year, according to the CRE.

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