French MPs Want to Ban Black Friday

CC BY 4.0. Thomas Bresson – Young anti-Black Friday protesters march in the streets of Belfort, France on November 29, 2019.

It harms retailers, drives overconsumption, and contributes to traffic jams and pollution. What's the point?

If French members of parliament have their way, Black Friday could be illegal in France by next year. An amendment has been passed as part of the country's anti-waste law that proposes curbing the excessive advertising and promotion of deals that takes place on Black Friday.

As ecological transition minister Elisabeth Borne explained, "We cannot both reduce greenhouse gas emissions and call for a consumer frenzy." The amendment states that "'Black Friday' is a vast glory operation of consumerism imported from the United States in 2013" and is "based on the advertising value of overconsumption." Critics say it causes resources to be squandered and contributes to "traffic jams, pollution, and gas emissions."

They argue, too, that the Black Friday deals aren't as good as they seem. From the amendment, via EuroNews:

"The publicity for 'Black Friday' makes it seem like the consumer 'benefits from a price reduction comparable to the sales defined by [the law]' when they actually don't."

In France, there are two traditional seasons for sales – six weeks in the winter (around January) and six weeks in the summer (around August). This was explained to me by a French housemate in university, who said most people do their shopping at those times of year. Obviously Black Friday throws this off-balance and introduces yet another sale season, which the world hardly needs.

There is growing support for this 'Block Friday' movement in France, mainly because small retailers tend not to benefit from Black Friday sales. Borne said that "she would support Black Friday if it helped small French traders, but said it mostly benefited large online retailers," such as Amazon. Not surprisingly France's e-commerce union disagrees, and has condemned the amendment.

Should the amendment pass, there would be a maximum €300,000 fine and possible imprisonment for "aggressive commercial practices." It will be debated in parliament next month.