Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne announced that distributors will be able to sell gasoline “at a loss” for a few months to allow them to “lower prices further”, in an interview posted online on Saturday on the Le Parisien website.

“With this unprecedented measure, we will have tangible results for the French, without subsidizing fuel,” she assured, after recalling that selling at a loss has been prohibited by law since 1963.

The head of government did not accept the opposition’s proposals which call for either a rebate like a year ago, or a reduction in gasoline taxation to deal with the surge in fuel prices which have reached the bar of two euros per liter.

“Everyone takes their part,” she affirmed, assuring that “it is normal to involve large industrialists”, while recalling that “the responsibility of the State is also to lower its deficit and debt.

This announcement aroused the astonishment of Francis Pousse, president of the Mobilians professional union which represents 5,800 traditional service stations (excluding supermarkets) including 3,400 stations displaying the TotalEnergies brand.

While TotalEnergies has already capped the price of fuel at 1.99 euros per liter in most of its stations, Mr. Pousse sees this new measure as a response to supermarkets, allowing them to “fight” in this ultra-competitive market. , while the market price “will soon exceed 1.99 euros”.

“We fuel pump operators, it is out of the question that we sell at a loss,” he declared to AFP, before adding: “My members live on 40, 50% or even more from the sale of fuel, so if they sell at a loss, I give them three months.”

In an already very tense market, he points out that the net margin of traditional stations is “1 to 2 cents” (per liter) in normal times.

Mr. Pousse also says he is “skeptical” about the effect of this measure on purchasing power, because if the prices of supermarket suppliers continue to increase, they will “not be able to afford to lose 15 cents on each liter of gasoline.

It expects “rapid and firm commitments” from the government to protect its members from this “market deregulation”.

No distributor or oil group contacted by AFP on Saturday evening wanted to react immediately to the head of government’s announcement.

Asked about the comments of the national secretary of the PCF, Fabien Roussel, who this week called on the French “to invade service stations and supermarkets”, Ms. Borne said she was “surprised” by statements which were not “in his habits”.

“I called him to tell him that it was a very bad message and that political leaders had to be very careful with their words in a context where there can be anger among some of our fellow citizens,” he said. -she declared.

On the question of purchasing power, the head of government rejected the RN’s proposal to eliminate VAT on food products, calling on the far-right party to read “the studies which have proven that going from 5.5% 0% is often not reflected in prices.”

16/09/2023 22:42:28 –         Paris (AFP) –         © 2023 AFP