It is illegal for businesses to refuse cash in France

5 September 2023
What was claimed

A very well known supermarket in France reinstated cash payments after a protest involving 50 people against card-only payments.

Our verdict

There is no evidence this took place. It is against the law for businesses to refuse cash in France.

A post shared more than 14,000 times on Facebook details a vague anecdote about a protest against a cashless policy at a “very well known supermarket” in France that led to the retailer reinstating cash. 

The same post has also been shared thousands of times on X (formerly known as Twitter). 

Despite this, there’s no evidence that the protest recounted in the post ever took place. 

All businesses in France must accept cash by law, apart from in a few very limited circumstances such as if the notes are in a poor condition or the customer attempts to pay in a different currency. 

Claims surrounding cashless payments, a central banking system and digital currency are extremely popular on social media and we have fact checked them many times before.  

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What does the post say?

The post, which features a screenshot of a Facebook message or status, says: “In France for three months now...Their approach to digital banking is simply fantastic. I'd like to share a bit about it.

“A very well known supermarket here decided to go cashless.

“A group of 50 people got together and agreed that they would all do a big shop on the same day. Pilling their trolleys to the brim and each person getting to the checkout - the human check out, not the machines - and having everything scanned before bringing cash out.

“The staff were absolutely overrun. There management in a complete tizz, everyone repeatedly, calmly and in a very organised and polite fashion acting as if they knew nothing. No edges, no rudeness, no humiliation.

“Offering No other method of payment than cash, willing to leave their trolleys behind if cash was not accepted...

“The supermarket reinstated cash.” 

The post later adds: “They are doing it in every single area of France. Simply refusing to be part of it.”

Businesses in France are obliged to take cash 

It is illegal not to accept cash in France—in shops but also in all other businesses, such as the petrol stations and restaurants which are referenced in another part of the same post. 

The law says: “Refusing to accept banknotes and coins that have legal tender in France at the value at which they are in circulation is punishable by a fine applicable to class two offences.”

Banknotes and coins can only be refused in very limited circumstances, such as if foreign currency is used, if the coins or notes are in poor condition, if the currency is detected as counterfeit and if the payment consists of more than 50 coins. 

Cash may also be refused for security or technical reasons, for example by a shopkeeper on a nightshift, or at parking meters to deter vandalism. 

Because of this, it’s unlikely that a “very well known supermarket” in the country would decide to go totally cashless. 

No evidence any such protest has taken place 

Full Fact could find no information online about any protest like the one described in the Facebook post. 

While we were unable to find accounts that matched the social media protest, some large supermarket chains in the country have hit headlines in recent years after using a loophole in French law to keep stores open on Sunday afternoons. 

French labour laws state that employees of large supermarkets can’t work past 1pm on Sunday. To avoid having to close the stores these supermarkets have sent cashiers home and kept self-scanning options only, an approach that has resulted in some protests from people who fear such a move could put jobs at risk. 

In 2022 Banque de France reminded two of France’s biggest retailers that they were obliged to accept cash, after the introduction of self-scanning options (which do not accept banknotes or cards) only on Sundays meant that customers had to pay by card. 

Christophe Baud-Berthier, a director at Banque de France was quoted in French media saying: “This is the principle and it must be remembered: a merchant cannot refuse a cash payment.”

Image courtesy of Tara Clark

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