6. French Bank Cheques

  1. Completing a Cheque
  2. Payment by Cheque
  3. Cashing a Cheque/Bounced Cheques
  4. Lost Cheques

6.2. Payment by Cheque in France

Most shops garages and restaurants will accept payment by cheque, although it is not universally the case because of problems with bounced and stolen cheques.

If as seller does not accept cheques, or they accept only on a conditional basis, then a notice should normally be displayed on the premises.

You may find that you are asked to provide proof of identity.

Insufficient Funds

It is a criminal offence in France to write a cheque without sufficient funds in your account, called chèque sans provision.

The punishment for writing a cheque without funds to cover is (in theory at least) tough.

You are potentially liable to criminal fines and banned from being able to use write a cheque for up to five years.

However, the rule is not a draconian as may appear, for most banks make every effort to avoid giving grief to their clients.

So, if it does happen to you, then the reaction of your bank is likely to depend on the circumstances and the relationship you have with them.

They may pay the cheque and allow you go to overdrawn.

If there are funds in your deposit account, you may well find they will contact you about the matter to make a transfer between the accounts.

Alternatively, the bank will return the cheque to the payee marked impayé faute de provision and, in turn, request you put sufficient funds in your account. They may also insist on the return of the cheque book until the account has been restored into credit.

Within certain limits banks are free to charge their own fees for unpaid cheques. The law limits to €30 the fee for an unpaid cheque under €50 and a limit of €50 is set for an unpaid cheque over €50. There may well be other penalties in the event of further breaches.

If you fail to regularise the situation, you face the prospect of harsher treatment as your name will be added to a central register called the Fichier Central de Chèque (FCC) and you will then banned from issuing cheques for 5 years. There will also be bank charges and you may be liable to a fine from the Trésor Public .

If you are paying a large sum by cheque or you are nervous about being paid by cheque then it is possible to obtain a bank guarantee cheque in the same manner as is the case in most countries. There will be a charge for this service.

Post-Dated Cheques

It is also illegal (at least technically!) to write a post-dated cheque and neither is it legal to pre-date a cheque.

If you propose to settle a purchase via a number of post-dated cheques, be careful, because the cheques are immediately valid and could be cashed the next day. So writing a post-dated cheque is no guarantee that it will not be presented before this date.

The duration of the validity of a cheque is one year (being reduced to six months in 2017), after which time a bank has the right to refuse to accept it.

Cancellation of Cheques

If you write a cheque you cannot later cancel it unless it is lost or stolen or there is fraudulent use or bankruptcy of the recipient.

If you cancel a cheque due to reasons of theft or fraud you may well find that the sum is temporarily blocked in your account whilst the position is verified, in order to protect the interests of the beneficiary.

Payment in Cash

The law forbids payment by cash of goods or services for a sum in excess of €1,000.

This obligation does not apply if you are non-resident, but in these circumstances the seller has an obligation to obtain and record in their financial records the identity and address of the purchaser.

Next: Cashing a Cheque

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