Who: French Parliament
When: The law was adopted on the 10th of February 2020. Its provisions will come into force gradually.
A new law related to the fight against waste and the circular economy (i.e. Loi n° 2020-105 relative à la lutte contre le gaspillage et à l’économie circulaire à la lutte contre le gaspillage et à l’économie circulaire) has just been adopted. This law aims to accelerate the change of production and consumption habits in order to reduce waste and preserve natural resources, biodiversity and the environment. Some of its provisions affect business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing rules.
Definition of a new misleading practice
Black Friday promotions have been highly criticised in the past year both by environmental associations and some MPs, because of their effects on the environment and for their encouragement of over-consumption.
The French government’s main concerns with Black Friday promotions are that they could be used to circumvent sales (“soldes”) regulations, and that some of the observed practices have been deemed misleading by consumers associations, as they suggested that consumers could benefit from significant price reductions despite studies showing that the price reduction average was lower than 2%. Therefore, as from the 12 February 2020, the consumer code has deemed it misleading for an advertisement to advertise price reduction promotions coordinated at a national level, where the consumer benefits from a price reduction comparable with reductions offered during the legal period of sales (in other words, twice a year for a period of six weeks).
Informing consumers about the environmental characteristics of the products offered for sale has also become an important issue, since it is more and more frequently deemed to play a part in the consumer’s purchase decision.
As from 1 January 2022, the law prohibits/regulates the use of some environmental claims, for example:
- “Compostable” cannot be used for plastic products and packaging whose composability can only be achieved in an industrial unit. In addition, products and packaging that can be composted in domestic or industrial composting must be marked “Do not throw into the wild“.
- The claims “biodegradable“, “environmentally friendly” or any other equivalent wording must not be used on a product or packaging.
- When a product is claimed to be recycled, the percentage of recycled materials incorporated in the product must be disclosed.
- Conditions to claim a product is reconditioned will be defined by secondary legislation.
As from 1 January 2021, any advertising or commercial communication aimed at promoting the disposal of products must contain information encouraging reuse or recycling.
New restrictions will apply regarding the use of paper ads.
- As from the 12 February 2020: putting unsolicited promotional gifts in mail boxes is punishable by a criminal fine up to €7,500 for a legal entity.
- As from the 1 January 2021:
- Lack of compliance with a statement/sign indicating that an individual or an entity does not want to receive non-dedicated advertisings at their place of residence or offices is punishable by a criminal fine up to €7,500 for a legal entity.
- Placing ad papers on cars is punishable by the same fine.
- As from the 1 January 2023: B2C advertising flyers or catalogues must be printed on recycled paper or on paper produced from sustainably managed forests.
- Upon adoption of secondary legislation, or at the latest on the 1 January 2023, except if requested by a client, systematic printing and distribution are prohibited of: (i) receipts in brick and mortar stores; (ii) credit card receipts; (iii) tickets from automated machines; and (iv) vouchers and tickets intended for brick-and-mortar store products promotion or offering price reductions for these products.
Why this matters
With this new law, France wishes to support the transition from a linear economy consisting of “produce, consume, throw away” to a circular economy that guarantees a sober consumption of non-renewable resources, where products have a longer life, where waste is stopped and where plastics are recycled. As part of these objectives, the law provides for new obligations to inform consumers and restrictions on brand environmental communications, which may affect current brand practices.