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Street commerce: what are the rules to follow in France?

Street commerce: what are the rules to follow in France?

If you are planning a business trip to France to sell your products in the street as part of a fair, show or another international event organized in France, you will have to comply with certain French rules regarding street commerce.

More specifically, French law requires that any merchant or craftsman who sells products outside the municipality on the territory of which they have their registered place of business as part of an itinerary trade obtains an “itinerant merchant card” (“carte de commerçant ambulant“).

In addition, to be able to sell their products on markets, fairs and shows, itinerant merchants and craftsmen must obtain a right of way, called an authorization to occupy public domain (“autorisation d’occupation de domaine public“).

They must also comply with the regulations which habitually apply to their business in France.

Finally, if they are planning to have some of their employees come to France and work on the fairs or shows they attend, certain French rules regarding posting of employees to France must also be complied with.

Street commerce in France requires to obtain an itinerant merchant’s card

When a commercial activity is carried out on markets, fairs or the public highway, it is considered to be an itinerant (non-sedentary) trade activity.

To be able to carry an itinerant activity, the merchants or craftsmen must obtain an itinerant merchant’s or craftsman’s card (“carte de commerçant et/ou artisan ambulant“), if the activity is carried out outside the merchant’s or craftsman’s municipality of residence (i.e., as regards companies, the municipality in which they have their registered place of business).

Not all itinerant traders and craftsmen are required to hold an itinerant merchant’s or craftsman’s card (“carte de commerçant et/ou artisan ambulant“).

The following professionals are not required to hold such a card, although they may be required to hold other types of permits and/or comply with certain other formalities:

  • Sales agents
  • Door-to-door salespeople and representatives
  • Press salespersons
  • Cab drivers
  • Freight forwarders
  • Merchants or craftsmen making sales rounds or providing services in one or more municipalities from a permanent (fixed) establishment
Conditions for applying for an itinerant merchant card in France

Before you can apply for an itinerant merchant/artisan card, you will have to register with the French Registry of Commerce and Companies (“Registre du Commerce et des Sociétés”) if you are a merchant (which includes companies carrying a commercial activity), or with the National Registry of Companies (“Registre National des Entreprises (RNE)”) if you are a craftsmen.

Next, an application for an itinerant merchant/artisan card must be submitted to the relevant Chamber of Commerce and Industry for merchants, and to the Chamber of Trades and Crafts for artisans.

For this purpose, a form whereby the merchant or craftsman declares that they will carry an itinerant activity (“Declaration préalable pour l’exercice d’une activité commerciale ou artisanale ambulante“) must be completed and sent to the Chamber of Commerce and Industry or, respectively, the Chamber of Trades and Crafts before they start carrying the activity.

In order not to hinder itinerant businesses, a provisional certificate valid for one month can be issued by the Chamber of Commerce and Industry or by the Chamber of Trades and Crafts at the merchant’s or craftsman’s request, while waiting for the definitive card to be issued.

Once issued, the itinerant merchant’s card will be valid for four years. It is renewable.

Street commerce in France requires to obtain authorizations to occupy public domain

If you want to work as an itinerant merchant, usually on the public highway, a “carte de commerçant ambulant” (itinerant merchant’s card) is not enough.

The merchant or craftsman must ensure that they have the right to sell at the chosen location, and must therefore obtain authorization from the relevant authorities to occupy the public domain or other sites concerned.

The authorization generally takes the form of a decision (“arrêté”) issued by the authority and entails the payment of a fee.

The type of authorization and the authority which must issue it vary from case to case:
Type of authorization Locations Payment Which authoriry to contact
Request for market space Halles, market, fair, funfair Right of way Town hall, municipal usher or event organizer
Parking permits Occupation without right-of-way: open terrace, stall, parking of a van or foodtruck Royalty Administrative authority responsible for traffic police: town hall in general or prefecture, if the road is a national or departmental road or certain city arteries.
Road permits Private occupation with right-of-way: enclosed terrace, ground-mounted kiosk, etc. Right of way Administrative authority in charge of domain management: mayor’s office, in the case of municipal public domains

The rules governing occupation of the public domain can vary, depending on geographical location. A case-by-case analysis is required before an application can be submitted.

Other obligations to be met by itinerant traders and craftsmen regarding Street Sales in France
  • Professional liability insurance

Running an itinerant business can make you incur a number of risks, such as road accidents and damage to property or persons, which may be caused by the activity, and which may result in the merchant being held civilly liable.

It is therefore essential to take out personal liability insurance to ensure that risks resulting from the activity are covered.

  • Compliance with specific rules applicable to the itinerant business

The rules inherent to the activity must be complied with. Such rules generally relate to:

  • Price display,
  • Cold chain and food hygiene rules in the case of a food business,
  • etc.

Similarly, the rules specific to the location where the itinerant business is set must also be complied with. For example, markets almost always have internal regulations (set by the local mayor) which generally require traders to comply with opening and closing hours, internal organisation, etc.

  • Compliance with French employment and labor law rules

Companies must also comply with French labor law regulations, including those on posting of employees to France, if they are planning to bring their own staff to France.

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