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France - Shopping

When you shop in France you will find that the prices always include the VAT (la TVA), so there are no hidden extras in the cost. Shops are generally open six days a week in France and it is very rare that a shop is open on a Sunday. Opening hours for the majority of shops are from 9 am till 12 noon, then from 2 pm to 7 pm. Shops in smaller towns and villages will close for lunch, although those in the larger cities tend not to adhere to this tradition any more. You may find that even the cafes shut at lunch time, particularly in the smaller towns. Shops may open on Sundays in the lead-up to Christmas and at some tourist attractions in high season. Some areas of the larger cities have supermarkets which open on a Sunday.

There are four national chains of supermarkets. These are Auchan, Carrefour, Geant Casino and E Leclerc. These are similar to supermarkets in the US and the UK in that they sell almost everything you need. There are some chains of smaller stores which are along the lines of a village store which will stock daily essentials and there are also some discount stores such as Aldi and Lidl. Many French people favour the local markets for fresh produce such as fruit and vegetables. Smaller towns and villages often do not have a very large supermarket and the locals will prefer to shop in individual shops such as bakeries and delicatessens.

Shopping for designer goods is popular in the larger cities, particularly Paris. Shopping areas such as the Champs-Elysees and the Rue de Rivoli are filled with designer stores and Paris is considered to be one of the leading centres in the world for designer names. France is discovering out of town shopping centres and these are being developed all over the country, although they tend to be located close to the bigger towns.

All types of consumer goods are widely available in France. Some items are imported although France manufactures many different types of goods themselves. The standard of household appliances is very good and many brands which are well known in the UK and the US are also available in France. Expats rarely need to import any items as they can readily find everything that they need locally.

Sales take place regularly during the year, normally at the start of the year and in the summer, although shops will hold sales as and when they need to.

There are very few shops in France which do not take credit cards and the ‘chip and pin’ system is in use for most card types. Many shops still accept cheques although these are not used as much as credit and debit cards. Smaller shops in villages still deal mainly in cash.

France has a strong policy on consumer rights and the ‘Direction Generale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Repression des Fraudes’ (DGCCRF) was established to oversee consumer rights. The organisation provides a great deal of information on how the consumer can deal with any problems that they may be having. There are a number of smaller organisations which also offer consumer advice in specific situations.

Shops that accept payments by bank cards are not permitted to refuse to take a card payment although they are permitted to set a minimum spend limit. If you want to return something to a retailer you have ‘la droit de retractation’ for a period of seven days without having to give a reason why. Retailers are obliged to refund the money paid for the item and must do so within 30 days. If you have already waived your right to the 7 day cooling off period then this does not apply and this rule cannot be applied to perishable items such as foods. This rule cannot be used if you purchase software or audio items and have already opened them. If you purchase an item which breaks within a short period of time you still have the right to return it to the shop and most will be helpful in exchanging or refunding the item. If you need to make a complaint you can put it in writing to the shop or the manufacturer. They have an obligation to deal with your complaint within a reasonable period of time.

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