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ENVIRONMENT

New law to force French car adverts to include green travel message

A new law will force car advertisements in France to carry messages that encourage more eco-friendly forms of transport such as cycling and public transport.

Traffic outside the French city of Lille spews pollution into the air.
Traffic outside the French city of Lille spews pollution into the air. Car adverts are to be required to show adverts encouraging people to use more ecological modes of transport. (Photo by Philippe HUGUEN / AFP)

Many products in France are required to carry warnings: “Smoking kills”; “Avoid eating too much fat”; “Abuse of Alcohol is dangerous for your health”. 

From March 2022, a new law will force the advertisers for automobile industry to do the same. 

All car adverts will need to contain one of the following messages:

Pour les trajets courts, privilégiez la marche ou le vélo – For short journeys, prioritise walking or cycling

Pensez à covoiturer – Think about lift sharing 

Au quotidien, prenez les transports en commun – On a day-to-day basis, take public transport 

The messages must be clearly visible/audible and advertisers face a €50,000 fine should they fail to comply with the new rules.  They must also mention the hashtag  #SeDéplacerMoinsPolluer – which encourages people to choose less polluting forms of transport. 

Car manufacturers and advertisers will also have to mention which emissions class the advertised vehicle falls into. This is a new ranking system to inform consumers about the environmental impact that is part of a widespread climate action law approved by lawmakers in July.

Environmental campaigners had been calling for a ban on advertising for all cars (like that imposed on the tobacco industry), which represent a significant portion of emissions within the transport sector as a whole. 

As it stands, adverts for the most polluting vehicles (those that produce 123g of CO2/km) will be banned from 2028. The EU commission wants to phase out all combustion engines by 2035. 

Behind supermarkets, the automobile sector is the second largest advertiser in France. The WWF estimates that 42 percent of all automobile advertisement spending in France is used to promote SUVs – among the most polluting vehicles of all. 

Automobile industry figures have hit back against the new regulations. 

“It stigmatises drivers,” said Lionel French Keogh, the CEO of Hyundai in France. 

“It is the first time that we have had such a direct message from the government. But if I am doing a short journey and have to go along a main road, I will do so neither on foot nor by bicycle,” he told AFP.

 “It means that overall, we have to find alternatives to the automobile… We are going to adapt — moving toward zero-emission vehicles is the course of history,” he said.

 “But there is an irony: they make no distinction between the type of motorisation. It’s a bit counterproductive to the government’s aim of promoting electric vehicles,” he added.

Volkswagen, the third-biggest car seller in France, after Stellantis and Renault, said “We will comply with the legislation and analyse how best to comply with our advertising agency.”

The decision not to ban automobile adverts altogether has saved billions of euros worth of advertising revenue for media organisations in France. 

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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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