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FEATURE

What changes about life in France in April 2021

April could bring tighter Covid restrictions, but also ushers in warmer weather, Easter holidays and some other good news.

What changes about life in France in April 2021
Chocolate fish, President Emmanuel Macron and Covid-19 vaccines all play important parts in April. Photo: AFP

Easter holidays

First, some good news. April 5th is Easter Monday and a public holiday in France. That means most people get the day off and schools across the country are closed.

It’s the second public holiday in 2021 so far – a year that proved to be a particularly bad one when it comes to jours fériés (public holidays). Here’s why.

Schools take Easter holidays at different times depending on their zone.

Zone A – Saturday, April 10th to Monday, April 26th

Zone B – Saturday, April 24th to Monday, May 10th

Zone C – Saturday, April 17th to Monday, May 3rd

READ ALSO: Is there any kind of logic behind France’s school holiday zones?

As the French government has banned inter-regional travel between the areas on ‘lockdown light’, roads will likely be less busy than usual around Easter.

READ ALSO: Easter holidays in France – what are the rules and the government’s advice?

New Covid restrictions?

Nineteen départements in France are already on a ‘lockdown light’, but the government is considering tightening the rules as Covid rates continue to climb and hospitals in hard-hit areas, such the Paris region, warn that their capacities have reached their limits. 

REVEALED: Just how bad is the third Covid wave hitting France compared to previous spikes?

Here’s a look at what France can expect.

More vaccine centres set to open 

The French Covid vaccine programme has sped up the past few weeks and France now vaccinates 400,000 people a day, seven days a week. The government has promised to further increase this pace by opening 38 vaccinodromes (mass vaccination centres) across the country, including the Stade de France in Paris which will be open for vaccinations from April 6th.

READ ALSO

Household gas gets cheaper

Gas prices will drop by 4.1 percent on April 1st, according to the national Commission de régulation de l’énergie (CRE). This is the first decline in months, as gas has been getting pricier in France since August. 

The drop will be 1.2 percent for households using gas for cooking, 2.5 percent for those using it for both cooking and heating and 4.3 percent for those only using gas for heating.

It will get easier to refuse cookies

Internet cookies, that is. By April 1st, all French websites must have aligned themselves to the new rules issued by the National Commission on Information and Liberties (CNIL), which aim to increase transparency of online data gathering.

When you enter a website, you generally have to accept or refuse browser “cookies”, which keep track of your visits and activities. Your computer stores it in a file inside your web browser, however they are more useful to the companies behind the website than they are to you.

Internet cookies gather data for a range of different purposes: some are essential to ensure that the website works – such as remembering the items you want to purchase – while others are only there to gather data for targeted advertising. 

CNIL wants to make it easier for users to decline cookies. Whereas a refusal now requires clicking through several steps to find the no-button, websites will from April 1st have to make it just as easy to decline cookies as to accept them. CNIL also demand that websites spell out what the cookies do before visitors click accept.

Winter break

The trêve hivernale – the winter truce during which tenants in rent arrears cannot be evicted – usually ends on April 1st. However this year, in recognition of the financial difficulties that the pandemic has brought to many, it has been extended until June 1st.

Member comments

  1. Please verify the information in this article. I believe that all children will take their holiday during the same two weeks in April, regardless of zone, as announced by the president on Wednesday.

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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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