Le ministère de l’Économie a décidé de serrer la vis à ceux qui abusent des retards de paiement.

The proliferation of crises in recent years has exacerbated tensions between businesses. Between the explosion of Covid cases, the closure of entire sectors of the economy, the surge in energy prices, supply difficulties, some companies are on the brink. The balance of power between large groups and small businesses can rapidly degenerate. The business ombudsman has regularly sounded the alarm in recent years to put pressure on principals.

In an effort to end certain abuses, the investigators of the Directorate General for Competition, Consumers and Fraud Prevention (DGCCRF) have imposed a fine of 29.7 million euros in 2021 due to shortages in terms of payment terms. By way of comparison, for the same reason, Bercy’s services had imposed a fine of € 9.4 million in 2020, the year of the pandemic. It is true that two years ago the administration largely loosened its controls in the context of confinements. The amount for 2021 is still much higher than that of 2019 (€ 22.4 million), 2018 (€ 17.2 million) or 2017 (€ 14.7 million).

The market economy cannot be a jungle. This is to ensure fair competition […] There are fewer fines in number, but they are larger amounts. “ Director Virginie Beaumeunier said during a press conference.

As the war in Ukraine continues, payment terms could lengthen further, jeopardizing large numbers of SMEs and VSEs. Asked by The gallery on the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine on payment terms, the senior official stressed that it was still too early to answer. We don’t have enough perspective yet. Checks on payment deadlines are based on past accounts. We have not yet found the average payment terms for 2019 “.

As for the controls during the pandemic, he added that in times of economic and health crisis, we have shown leniency. We made discounts on the penalties to take into account the situation, but each time it is a case-by-case assessment, depending on the good faith of the company in the reality of these financial difficulties “.

Great distribution in Bercy’s sights

The distribution industry is clearly one of the bad students. Of the 227 sanctioning decisions effective in 2021, 24 concern large retailers for abusive commercial practices. During the presentation to journalists, Virginie Beaumeunier underlined the Incaa purchase alliance (4 million euro fine) established between Intermarché and Casino for “Having asked their suppliers for additional budgets without justification or compensation”. Carrefour (€ 1.75 million fine) and Intermarché (€ 2 million) were also cited among the indicted groups.

In the context of the surge in food prices, skirmishes between brands and suppliers have continued to multiply in recent weeks with the reopening of commercial negotiations. Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire recently announced that he will initiate an Inspectorate General of Finance (IGF) mission on price formation, specifically to ensure that farmers are not the losers.

Loans guaranteed by the state, an effective weapon to limit the delay in payment terms

The other important lesson of this 2021 activity report is that state-guaranteed loans (PGEs), heavily mobilized since the start of the pandemic, have made it possible to limit payment delays. “The checks (carried out by the DGCCRF) revealed that companies that had benefited from a PGE were three times less often in supplier payments than the average (11% versus 32%)”, underlines the Ministry of Economy and Finance. ” We have focused on large and medium-sized enterprises that have benefited from PGE “, adds Virginie Beaumeunier.

Recall that nearly 680,000 companies have signed up for a PGE in France for a total outstanding amount of around 148 billion euros, according to a recent report by Bercy. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority relate to very small companies (80%) while large companies and medium-sized businesses only concern a very small percentage of the loans taken out (0.2%).

PGE: in the face of the crisis, half of French companies are asking for an extension of the repayment terms

Massive fraud on FFP2 masks

The outbreak of the pandemic in early 2020 has cast a hard light on the lack of health protection masks in France. In a few weeks, the French government had to order millions of masks mainly from China to make up for all these shortcomings. At the same time, many citizens and small businesses have started producing these protective masks.

In this particularly troubled economic and health context, fraud prevention officers conducted an investigation against a company that marketed surgical masks and FFP2s improperly presented as “Made in France”. The investigators showed that the masks were not manufactured in the company’s factories in France or even manufactured in France, but imported from Asia and simply repackaged in boxes marked ‘Made in France’ “, underlines the report. In the end, the two executives found themselves in prison, receiving very heavy penalties at the same time (permanent ban on running a business, exercising a commercial function and a public function).

Masks: the health professions denounce the “war profiteers” of large retailers