Jacques Serais and AFP/Photo credit: MEHDI TAAMALLAH/NURPHOTO/NURPHOTO VIA AFP 08:25 a.m., September 21, 2023

While Elisabeth Borne had announced that distributors could soon sell their fuels at cost, the operation may never take place. The representatives of the major brands are opposed to the approach and the presidential majority is divided in the face of the Prime Minister's proposal.

Divided majority, oppositions wind up. The sale at a loss of fuel, which Elisabeth Borne wants to authorize to curb the soaring prices, has become a thorn in the side of the executive eager to preserve the purchasing power of the French.

On the offensive on Saturday, by announcing that distributors would be temporarily allowed to sell gasoline "at a loss" to allow them to "lower prices further", the Prime Minister finds herself on the defensive. "It doesn't seem to work," sums up a majority executive soberly. "In the face of inflation (...) everyone must and can make an effort," government spokesman Olivier Véran insisted on Wednesday, defending the measure despite the negative reception of distributors, large and small.

In the entourage of Elisabeth Borne, it is confirmed that the measure is "maintained" and that "constructive exchanges continue" with them "to find solutions for the benefit of the French". However, in turn, Carrefour, E.Leclerc, Intermarché, Système U have announced that they do not intend to use this possibility, which must go through a change in the law.

>> READ ALSO - Selling fuel at a loss: what does it change for motorists?

In addition, while the government had dangled a price drop of up to half a euro (47 cents) per liter in some cases, this estimate quickly appeared to be greatly exaggerated.

"We must not oversell the measure" which "allows to scratch two, three, four cents," tempers a minister.


"We use all possible levers to protect the French where possible," said Olivier Véran. The spokesman rejected any "lawsuit in impotence that could be made to the State" defending the government's record and the measures taken.

But the majority is divided. "Selling at a loss is never a solution" because "there is always someone who pays for it," said the boss of the MoDem, François Bayrou, refusing nevertheless to overwhelm the government.

"The Prime Minister was challenged and was a bit heckled by statements from major retailers saying: 'But why are you preventing us from lowering fuel prices? Let us sell at a loss," Macron said on LCI.

>> READ ALSO - Sale of fuel at a loss: 2,500 independent stations, considered essential, are threatened

At Renaissance too, some executives do not hide their reluctance. "If it's not possible, it's not possible," whispers fatalistically, a deputy. Another points to the "unpreparedness" of the government and predicts a burial of the measure because his colleagues in the majority "feel the wind turning".

But when selling at a loss was not allowed, distributors "they said 'ohlala we can not sell at a loss'," accuses a government source.


The only consensus in the majority, the measure has the interest of not affecting public finances while the government makes it a point of honor to present a constrained 2024 budget, to contain debt and deficit.

The return to school promises to be "complicated" notes a minister. "We were in a process of strong aid and inflation was contained (...) But we have changed the paradigm, with a more responsible and tougher budget." "What is missing is to be able to explain that the measures are added to others" in a country that "does much more" than its neighbors, says another member of the government.

>> READ ALSO - Fuels: why is selling at a loss prohibited in France?

It is necessary to "show that the alternative (to lower taxes, editor's note) is stupid" and expensive, suggests another. The oppositions are on the offensive on price increases, accusing the executive of not doing enough to protect purchasing power.

The national secretary of the PCF Fabien Roussel went so far as to call to "invade" prefectures, supermarkets or gas stations so that the state "moves". Ecologists and socialists are demanding to "tax the profits" of large groups, the boss of the Socialist Party Olivier Faure accusing the government of making "diversion".

The right and far right are demanding a reduction in taxes and the deputy and vice-president of the National Rally Sébastien Chenu warns that he is "not in favor" of voting the bill that must contain the provision. The LR president of Hauts-de-France, Xavier Bertrand, accuses the executive of wanting to "gain time". On December 1, the date from which the selling at a loss will be made possible, "nothing will happen".