This morning French Decree No. 2020-378 of 31 March 2020 implementing French Ordinance No. 2020-316 of 25 March 2020 was issued in the French Official Journal.  This publication allows to draw up a complete panorama of the exceptional measures of deferral of the payment of invoices for the supply of electricity and/or natural gas benefiting businesses which activity is affected by the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic.

French Ordinance No. 2020-316 of 25 March 2020 imposes on

  • power suppliers owning an authorization to purchase electricity to resell it to end consumers or transmission or distribution system operators provided for in Article L. 333-1 of the French Energy Code (Code de l’énergie);
  • natural gas suppliers owning a supply authorization provided for in Article L. 443-1 of the same Code and supplying more than 100,000 clients; and
  • local energy distribution operators (entreprises locales de distribution (ELD)) mentioned in Article L. 111-54 of the said Code

to agree to the requests for the postponement of the payment of their invoices for the supply of electricity and/or natural gas due between 12 March 2020 and the date of the termination of the current state of health emergency and which have not yet been discharged.

This scheme does not include in its scope of application electricity producers who come to sell their production directly to end customers.

The postponed payments must be divided and distributed equally between the payments occurring after the last day of the month following the date of the termination of the current state of health emergency.  The period of their distribution will be agreed between the supplier and the concerned customers but shall not be inferior to 6 months.

By virtue of the French Ordinance, the suppliers listed above are precluded from suspending, interrupting or reducing, including by the termination of the contract, their provision of electricity and/or natural gas or reducing the power distributed on the grounds that their invoices were not paid, up to the termination of the current state of health emergency.

The customers who can benefit from the provisions presented above of French Ordinance of 25 March 2020 are very small businesses or micro-businesses regardless of their activity.

They are natural and legal persons governed by private law and carrying out an economic activity

(i)          having their tax residence in France;

(ii)         having started their operations before 1st February 2020;

(iii)        whose workforce is inferior to or equals 10 employees;

(iv)        whose turnover excluding VAT or net revenue in the case of a company falling under the so-called “non-commercial profit” regime achieved during the last fiscal year for which accounts are closed is under one million euros;

(v)         whose taxable profit, increased where applicable by the sums paid to the manager, does not exceed 60,000 euros for the last fiscal year for which accounts are closed;

(vi)        whose majority manager does not hold a full-time employment contract or a retirement pension on 1st March 2020 and did not receive daily social care benefits exceeding 800 euros between 1st and 31st March 2020;

(vii)       not being controlled by a commercial company;

(viii)      when they control one or more commercial companies, which the total sum of employees, turnover and profits of the controlling person and the controlled companies does not exceed the thresholds listed in (iii) to (v) above; and

(ix)       having (a) been prohibited from opening to the public between 1st and 31st March 2020, or (b) suffered a loss of turnover of at least 70% between 1st and 31st March 2020.

In addition, businesses wishing to benefit from the postponement of the payment of electricity and/or natural gas invoices must justify that they fulfill the conditions of application of this scheme by forwarding a certificate on their honor to the supplier.  They also must attached to their certificate either the acknowledgment of receipt of their request for eligibility to the benefit of the solidarity fund provided for by French Ordinance No. 2020-317 of 25 March 2020, or a copy of their declaration of cessation of payments or of the court decision initiating a bankruptcy procedure as per their application for bankruptcy.

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