Includes web links to local trade fair or show authorities and local newspapers, trade publications, radio/TV/cable information.
Last Published: 12/6/2018
For many consumer products and services, trade promotion and advertising are taking a growing share of the value-added process of the goods and services sold on the French market. French legislation covering trade promotion and advertising is covered under the specifics of several codes: civil law, “Code Civil;” commercial and anti-trust law, “Code de Commerce;” consumer law, “Code de la Consommation;” government tenders law, “Code des Marchés Publics;” criminal law, “Code Penal;” intellectual property law,  “Code de la Propriété Intellectuelle;”  and tax law,  “Code Général des Impots.” Competent consulting firms specialized in trade promotion and advertising are regrouped under the French industry association

General Legislation:             
Laws against misleading advertisements differ widely between member states within the EU. To respond to this imperfection in the internal market, the Commission adopted a directive, in force since October 1986, to establish minimum and objective criteria regarding truth in advertising. The Directive was amended in October 1997 to include comparative advertising.   Under the Directive, misleading advertising is defined as any "advertising which in any way, including its presentation, deceives or is likely to deceive the persons to whom it is addressed or whom it reaches and which, because of its deceptive nature, is likely to affect their economic behavior or which for those reasons, injures or is likely to injure a competitor."  Member states can authorize even more extensive protection under their national laws.

U.S. retailers should be aware that in 2016, nineteen eCommerce companies, including French and U.S. brands, were fined a combined 2.4 million Euros by the French authorities for committing misleading sales practices.  The misleading practices included-marking items as discounted when they were not, and labeling sales for a limited amount of time when in fact they were offered multiple times a year.

Comparative advertising, subject to certain conditions, is defined as "advertising which explicitly or by implication identifies a competitor or goods or services by a competitor." Member States can, and in some cases, have restricted misleading or comparative advertising.

The EU’s Audiovisual Media Services Directive lays down legislation on broadcasting activities allowed within the EU. Since 2009, the rules allowing for U.S.-style product placement on television and the three-hour/day maximum of advertising have been lifted.   However, a 12-minute/hour maximum remains. Child programming is subject to a code of conduct that includes a limit of junk food advertising to children.   Following the adoption of the 1999 Council Directive on the Sale of Consumer Goods and Associated Guarantees, product specifications, as laid down in advertising, are considered as legally binding on the seller. This Directive has incorporated into the Consumer Rights Directive mentioned above.  For more information on sale of consumer goods and associated guarantees, see the legal warranties and after sales service section below.

The EU adopted Directive 2005/29/EC concerning fair business practices in a further attempt to tighten consumer protection rules. These rules outlaw several aggressive or deceptive marketing practices such as pyramid schemes, "liquidation sales" when a shop is not closing, and artificially high prices as the basis for discounts in addition to other potentially misleading advertising practices. Certain rules on advertising to children are also set out.

Key Links:  Unfair commercial practices;
Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD)

The advertising of medicinal products for human use is regulated by Council Directive 2001/83/EC as amended by Directive 2004/27/EC.  The advertising of medicinal products is forbidden if market authorization has not yet been granted or if the product in question is a prescription drug. Mentioning therapeutic indications where self-medication is not suitable is not permitted, nor is the distribution of free samples to the public. The text of the advertisement should be compatible with the characteristics listed on the product label and should encourage rational use of the product. The advertising of medicinal products destined for professionals should contain essential characteristics of the product as well as its classification. Inducements to prescribe or supply a specific medicinal product are prohibited and the supply of free samples is restricted.

Key Link:  Information to Patients

Nutrition & Health Claims:
On July 1, 2007, regulation 1924/2006 set into force EU-wide conditions for the use of nutrition claims such as “low fat” or “high in vitamin C” and health claims such as “helps lower cholesterol.” The regulation applies to any food or drink product produced for human consumption that is marketed in the EU.  Only foods that fit a certain nutrient profile (below certain salt, sugar and/or fat levels) are allowed to carry claims.  Nutrition and health claims are only allowed on food labels if they are included in one of the EU’s positive lists.  Food products carrying claims must comply with the provisions of nutritional labeling Directive 90/496/EC and its amended version Directive 1169/2011.

In December 2012, a list of approved functional health claims went into effect.  The list includes generic claims for substances other than botanicals, which will be evaluated at a later date.  Disease risk reduction claims and claims referring to the health and development of children require an authorization on a case-by-case basis, following the submission of a scientific dossier to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).  Health claims based on new scientific data will have to be submitted to EFSA for evaluation but a simplified authorization procedure has been established.

The development of nutrient profiles, originally scheduled for January 2009, has been delayed.  Nutrition claims can fail one criterion, i.e. if only one nutrient (salt, sugar or fat) exceeds the limit of the profile, a claim can still be made provided the high level of that nutrient is clearly marked on the label.  For example, a yogurt can make a low-fat claim even if it has high sugar content but only if the label clearly states “high sugar content.”  A European Union Register of nutrition claims has been established and is updated regularly. Health claims cannot fail any criteria.  Detailed information on the EU’s Nutrition and Health Claims policy can be found on the USEU/FAS website at:
 and in the USDA Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards EU 28 2014

Key Link:  EU Register of nutrition and health

Food Information to Consumers:
In 2011, the EU adopted a new regulation on the provision of food information to consumers (1169/2011). The new EU labeling requirements apply from December 13, 2014 except for the mandatory nutrition declaration which will apply from December 13, 2016.

Detailed information on the EU’s new food labeling rules can be found on the USEU/FAS
 website and in the USDA Food and Agricultural Import Regulations and Standards EU 28 2014
Food Supplements:   Directive 2002/46/EC harmonizes the rules on labeling of food supplements and introduces specific rules on vitamins and minerals in food supplements. Ingredients other than vitamins and minerals are still regulated by member states.

Regulation 1925/2006, applicable as of July 1, 2007, harmonizes rules on the addition of vitamins and minerals to foods. The regulation lists the vitamins and minerals that may be added to foods. This list is updated most recently revised in 2014.  A positive list of substances other than vitamins and minerals has not been established yet, although it is being developed.  Until then, member state laws will govern the use of these substances.
Key Link:  Food supplements/ European Commission/ Labeling/ Index

The EU Tobacco Advertising Directive bans tobacco advertising in printed media, radio, and internet as well as the sponsorship of cross-border events or activities.  Advertising in cinemas and on billboards or merchandising is allowed, though these are banned in many member states. Tobacco advertising on television has been banned in the EU since the early 1990s and is governed by the Audiovisual Media Services Directive.  A revised Tobacco Products Directive has been adopted and transposed into the French national legislation in May 2016.  The new legislation includes bigger, double-sided health pictorial warnings on cigarette packages and the possibility for plain packaging along with health warnings, tracking systems.

Key link:  Tobacco Products Directive

Transposition de la directive européenne sur le tabac, arrivée du paquet neutre

Prepared by our U.S. Embassies abroad. With its network of 108 offices across the United States and in more than 75 countries, the U.S. Commercial Service of the U.S. Department of Commerce utilizes its global presence and international marketing expertise to help U.S. companies sell their products and services worldwide. Locate the U.S. Commercial Service trade specialist in the U.S. nearest you by visiting

France Trade Development and Promotion