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LIVING IN FRANCE

Supermarkets in France cap prices during coronavirus lockdown

Some French supermarkets have vowed to stem price increases by temporarily capping the price on key products found on their shelves.

Supermarkets in France cap prices during coronavirus lockdown
Some supermarkets will cap the price on certain items on their shelves during the coronavirus lockdown. Photo: AFP

Major operators like Intermarché, Leclerc and Carrefour have announced that they will take action against price increases on groceries during the lockdown period in France.

Intermarché was first in announcing that it will freeze the price on 10,000 products (nearly two thirds of the total) until May 15th. Leclerc has capped the price on 4,000 products until the end of the lockdown period. Carrefour today said it would issue similar restrictions on a list of 500 products.

The country's supermarkets saw their profits soar as, just after the government ordered most of the country's businesses to temporarily shut down their activities, people flocked to to stock up on pasta, toilet paper and other key items they feared might soon be on shortage.

Wile a shortage has not occurred, supermarkets' sales figures continued to surge as the government soon ordered the closing down of all food markets (bar some exceptions announced later).

Since the food markets closed, supermarkets have seen their sales increase by 31 percent, according to Le Parisien

At the same time, selection has narrowed and prices have increased, with many people noticing that their weekly shop is suddenly a lot more expensive.

One of the reasons is that the government has decided that, to support the country’s agriculture businesses, French products should be prioritised. Key products like fruit and veg have therefore gotten more expensive.

“From the moment we decided to prioritise French products, which are more expensive, there were inevitably price increases on these products,”  the President of the Federation for trade and distribution, Jacques Creyssel, told Le Parisien.

“But this is part of a collective national effort,” he added.

The supermarkets that have announced price capping measures have excluded farmers’ products from the measure.

Intermarché’s list of items does not include traditional farm products like eggs, milk and butter. Leclerc’s price capping only includes its own brand MDD and excludes agricultural products.

French supermarkets have seen sales increase since the beginning of lockdown. Customers must however respect rules on social distancing and are only let inside in handfuls at the time. Photo: AFP

French farmers have lost access to an important part of their workforce this year. Following the new restrictions, foreign seasonal workers are not able to participate in harvests, which means many of the farmers are able to produce less. 

Farmers have also said they face difficulties with reduced demand following the closure of food markets that usually sell products like cheese and eggs.

Because farmers cannot stop producing these products overnight (cows need to be milked also during lockdown), some farms have large surpluses they don't know how to get rid of.

France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire has said he will “ensure that the price increase on groceries remains acceptable” and that “any abuses will be sanctioned.”  

 


 

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TRAVEL

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

Ever seen those drivers who avoid the queues at toll booths and driving straight through? Here's how they do it.

Driving in France: What is télépéage and how does it work?

If you’re driving on French autoroutes one of the things you need to know is that they are not free – you will have to pay regular tolls, payable at toll booths known as péage.

Usually, drivers pick up a ticket from a booth at the start of their journey, then pay the required amount at a booth at the end of it – or when they move onto a different section of autoroute – based on the distance they have travelled.

But the toll booths themselves can be busy, especially during the summer, and long queues sometimes build up.

READ ALSO 8 things to know about driving in France this summer

This is where automated pay systems – known as télépéage – come in, especially for those who use the motorway network regularly.

As well as allowing you to pass straight through péages without stopping for payment, it’s also very useful for owners of right-hand drive vehicles, who may otherwise find that they’re sitting on the wrong side for easy and speedy payment.

Here’s how it works

Order your télépéage badge online

Click on the Bip&Go website here and follow the instructions to order a scannable personalised device (up to a maximum of two per account for private users). You will need to set up an account to arrange electronic payment of charges.

The website is available in English, French, German or Dutch.

You will need to supply bank details (IBAN number), address (for delivery), mobile phone number (to activate your account) and the vehicle’s registration details.

Your badge will be dispatched to your address within 48 hours from the opening of your online account. You can have the device sent to addresses outside France, but allow longer for it to arrive. 

If you’re in France, you can also pick up the device at one of Bip&Go’s stores, if you prefer – you will need need your bank details, proof of identity and a mobile phone.

Attach your badge 

Place your device on on the windscreen to the right of the rearview mirror. It is activated and ready to go. Then, simply, drive.

At the péage

All toll booths are equipped with the sensors that recognise that the vehicle is carrying the necessary device. At most, you will have to stop briefly for the device to be recognised and the barrier to lift.

You will also be able to drive through certain booth areas without stopping. These are indicated by an orange t symbol on the overhead signs. The maximum speed you can pass through these booths is 30kph.

Payments

Payments are processed automatically. You can monitor the amounts you have to pay on an app.

Do I need separate badges for motorway networks run by different companies?

No. The badge allows holders to travel on the entire French motorway network, no matter which company manages the motorway, and you can also use it to cross a number of toll structures in France such as the Millau Viaduct, the Tancarville Bridge or the Normandie Bridge, and pay to park in more than 450 car parks. 

Is it only valid in France?

No, with certain packages, you can also as easily travel on motorways in Spain, Portugal and Italy, and use a number of compatible car parks. You can even use them on Italian ferries.

Okay, but how much does it cost?

Subscriptions to the Bip&Go service depend on what type of service you want. A fixed price rolling subscription is €16 a year – plus toll charges – but assumes you’re a regular user of French motorways. 

A pay-as-you-go subscription is €1.70 for every month the badge is in use – plus toll charges – and carries a €10 additional fee if the badge is not used in a 12-month period.

How much are the toll charges?

They depend on the road you’re on, how far you travel along it, and the vehicle you’re driving.

Heading from Toulouse to Biarritz along the A64 will cost a total €23 in fees for a private car and if you’re driving all the way from Calais down to the Mediterranean coast expect to pay around €70 once you add up the various tolls along the way.

You can find out tariffs for autoroutes on the website of France’s official autoroute body AFSA – where you can also calculate the cost of your journey – including fuel.

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