E-commerce in France

The French e-commerce market is one of the largest in Europe. In fact, it is one of Europe’s 3 largest online markets, alongside Germany and the United Kingdom. This article explains exactly what to look out for if you want to conquer the French market with your online shop.

As as well as buying locally, French consumers also buy products from foreign online shops. And they are increasingly using their mobile phone for online shopping (m-commerce). So make sure that your French online shops is optimised for mobile.

Product requirements

If your products comply with EU legislation, you are allowed to sell them in France. Do check whether product requirements (in Dutch) in France are the same as in the Netherlands, as France has additional requirements for dietary supplements, food, and medicines. In some cases, special labelling requirements may apply.

French rules and legislation

If you sell products to French customers, you have to abide by French laws and regulations. They may differ from the laws and regulations you are used to in the Netherlands. Two examples:

  1. France has a strict Environmental Act (in French) the so-called 'Responsabilité Élargie du Producteur’ (REP). All online shops that sell packaged products to French consumers have to meet the underlying requirements, with French law stipulating that the first party in the chain is responsible for packaging management. RVO explains how to comply with French packaging regulations (in Dutch).
  2. France has a local registry in order to implement the WEEE Directive; the EU directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment. Register with Système déclaratif des filières (SYDEREP, in French) before placing this type of product on the French market. This organisation will also inform you about other French registries, such as the registry for marketing furniture.

Apply for a local domain name

The French domain name administrator Afnic assigns domain names with a .fr extension. EU companies without a French branch can also apply for a .fr domain name through an authorised registrar, which will submit your application to Afnic. Afnic has a directory of authorised Dutch registrars. Make your website and your general terms and conditions fits with local laws and regulations.

Your French customers

Tailor your online shop to the French market. French customers prefer French-language websites, so have your site translated or checked by a native speaker. If you offer French-speaking customer service, make sure to mention this as a Unique Selling Point.

Apply for a .fr extension for your online shop. Research shows that 90% of the French population trusts online shops with a local extension, which means they will be more likely to buy something.

The main search channel (in Dutch) for reaching a French audience is Google. Make sure to check the most important keywords for your business and product and use them – in French – in your website content. You can also advertise via Google and Instagram Shopping (in Dutch).

E-commerce trust marks

Trade association Fevad has its own trust mark (in French), which is part of the Ecommerce Europe trust marks network. The trust marks of Chamber Trust (in French) and Afnor Certification are also common in France. In addition to these trust marks, France also has a large number of industry and product-specific quality labels.

Payment methods

Make sure that your online shop offers French payment methods. French people prefer paying via PayPal or by credit or debit card, especially Carte Bleue.

VAT on distance sales in France

If your online shop sells products to French consumers, the 'destination country principle' applies. This rule also applies to entrepreneurs who are not subject to VAT and to legal entities that are not entrepreneurs, which means that you have to charge French VAT to French consumers. More information on French VAT rates and those of other member states can be found in the European Commission’s Taxes in Europe database. The French term for VAT is Taxe sur la Valeur Ajoutée or TVA.

There are two ways to file overseas VAT returns. The first way is to apply for a French VAT number and file local VAT returns in France. The second way is to sign your company up for the Union scheme under the One-Stop-Shop system of the Dutch Tax Administration, who will then pass on the VAT to France.

If your total sales to French consumers and your other intra-EU consumer sales remain below the €10,000 threshold, you are allowed to continue to charge Dutch VAT as a Dutch online shop.

Read more about VAT and international business.

Key figures

Thanks to the accelerated digitisation of the retail sector, the French e-commerce market was worth €129 billion in 2021, 15.1% more than in 2020. French people bought products and services online. With growth clocking in at 8.5% in 2020 and at 15.1% in 2021, the French e-commerce market is growing steadily.

French e-commerce umbrella organisation Fevad publishes current reports (in French) and press releases (in French) on the e-commerce market in France, available in French and English.