France to Slap Legal Limits on Food Discounts in Wake of 'Nutella Riots'
France has tabled a draft law to clamp down on the kind of huge discounts that sparked mini-riots over cut price Nutella in a string of supermarkets last week.
Videos of scuffles between French shoppers as they vied to grab heavily discounted tubs of the chocolate spread in Intermarche stores have gone viral over the past week.
The scenes prompted Bruno Le Maire, the economy minister, to summon the head of Intermarche.
"I told him that this must be stopped -- we can't have scenes like this every few days in France," Mr Le Maire told RTL radio.
Intermarche sparked scenes of chaos last Thursday when it slashed the price of a 950-gramme pot of Nutella, the preferred breakfast spread in many French households - by 70 per cent, from €4.50 to € 1.41.
The chain apologised to customers after the three-day promotion but has since launched other 70 per cent discount offers on coffee and nappies, sparking similar hysteria.
“It was horrible. It was out of control. Around 250 people were there when the shop opened, just to buy the nappies. Women were fighting each other” one store manager told the Republicain Lorraine newspaper.
“We had to call the police - the staff members were overwhelmed.”
On Monday, France’s consumer fraud agency, DGCCRF, said it was launching an investigation into the discounts.
Mr Le Maire urged Intermarche to "stop this kind of promotion", saying that the aggressive behaviour it induced must not be "normalised".
He pointed out that French supermarket chains had already "signed a deal to no longer carry out these kind of promotions. They must keep their word."
Clips of the shopping frenzy have been shared thousands of times on social media. A song featuring the lyrics, "A euro for Nutella, I'd kill a mother or father for that” by comedian Anthony Joubert 700,000 visits.
Italian Nutella makers Ferrero said it had nothing to do with the “unilateral” discount, which, it warned, risked creating "confusion and disappointment" for consumers.
For Nathalie Damery, head of social consumer watchdog Obsoco, the films of the Nutella scuffles were “sad” as they reflected “the suffering of people in France who can’t consume (food) brands under normal conditions”.
The developments came as a draft bill for “balanced trade relations in the food sector and for healthy and sustainable food” was presented to the council of ministers.
Among its many proposals is one to limit discounts to 34 per cent – half the Nutella price cuts – and ban “buy one, get one free” offers.
The bill is also supposed to guarantee farmers and producers a higher cut of profits versus supermarkets by reversing the process of establishing end customer prices, which will now start with an agreed fair price for producers.
Another measure obliges supermarkets to sell products for at least 10 per cent more than the price they paid for them to avoid price wars and that they are not deliberately selling at a loss.