New laws require drivers to be prepared in France

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Have your say

Each week former trading standards officer Richard Thomson answers your questions.

Q I’m about to go on holiday driving to the south of France. I understand there is a new law which requires drivers to carry a breathalyser kit in their cars. Is this right and where can I get the kits and how much do they cost?

JO (e-mail)

A Last February an announcement appeared in an official French government publication (Journal Officiel de la Republique Francaise) which really put anyone who drives in France on notice that a new drink-driving crackdown was on the cards.

From July 1, drivers are required to carry at least one approved breathalyser kit so they can check whether they are over the French limit for drink-driving, which at 0.05 per cent blood alcohol concentration is much lower than the UK’s 0.08 per cent.

Failure to carry at least one kit in your car can result in an on-the-spot fine of 11 Euro (£9), although the French police will not be dishing out fines until November.

The police have announced they will be targeting motorists coming off ferries for compliance.

You can buy compliant kits from cross-Channel ferry and Channel tunnel terminals before you enter France, or on arrival from terminal shops and chemists.

Single unit kits cost between £1 and £2.

Q I wonder if you can help me. I’m being hounded by Orange for £35.16 almost 11 months after I switched to Vodafone. They are claiming I didn’t give a month’s notice when I left them and switched to the new contract provider, and are refusing to close the account. They’ve got very aggressive and are threatening me with debt collectors.

JC (e-mail)

A I contacted Orange for you and within a few hours a spokesperson rang back to confirm they had instructed the collections agency to stop calling and writing to you.

They also phoned you directly, and said they were returning to your bank account the £35.16 they had been demanding as a gesture of goodwill.

I recommend that you contact the Credit Services Association, the credit agencies’ trade body, to complain about the refusal to stop chasing you for a debt that did not exist. You can reach them through their website at or by calling 0191 286 5656.

Q My 12-year-old car is covered by an extended warranty, but I’ve noticed it doesn’t cover wear and tear replacements. Is it worth continuing to pay out for this cover?

HR (e-mail)

A Probably not. All these warranties exclude things like tyres, brake pads, timing belts and clutches, because they will all, ultimately, have to be replaced.

As your car gets older, the warranty will taper away and limit cover for most parts anyway.

You’re right to consider the wisdom of not paying for something that will have relatively no value.


Richard Thomson is a former trading standards officer with many years experience. If you have a question, e-mail him at and wherever possible he will try to provide practical assistance. Unfortunately he cannot guarantee to respond to every letter or e-mail. Richard Thomson welcomes letters from readers on consumer issues. Replies are intended to give general help or advice, not a complete statement of law.