• You will have noticed it at each visit to the pump, the price of fuel is particularly high lately.
  • To combat soaring prices, the government proposed this weekend a new idea: the possibility for distributors to sell fuel "at a loss", that is to say cheaper than its purchase price.
  • But according to several economic experts interviewed by 20 Minutes, the measure is not a good idea, neither effective for the consumer, nor viable for the planet, nor fair for distributors.

"Selling at a loss, I don't know." Do not see any ignorance on the part of Philippe Crevel, economist and president of the Cercle de l'Epargne. Just a small reminder of what capitalism is supposed to be: "We sell to make money, not to lose money. This is nonsense. Selling at a loss always ends up offsetting itself elsewhere, whether in the price of gasoline later, or by higher margins on other products."

Three sentences, and less than a minute watch in hand. Enough for the specialist to almost bury the government's new idea against the rise in the price of gasoline. "A communication stunt without effectiveness," he concludes. On Sunday, the Prime Minister had evoked in Le Parisien the idea of allowing distributors to sell at cost price, and even at a loss. An initiative confirmed by the Minister of the Economy, Bruno le Maire, on Monday. He announced the start of operations on December 2, for six months. Those are the details. But the hardest part remains: convincing that it's a good idea.

A "surprising" and short-term decision

It will probably take more than an agenda, as the scepticism of economic actors seems great. Even among our Belgian neighbours, where we never miss the opportunity to criticise an incongruous French decision. Bernard Keppenne, chief economic officer of CBC Bank on site, considers "the decision very surprising" by its very principle. "It can only work in the very short term. A few weeks. But it is untenable over several long months. However, there is no indication that the price of a barrel of oil will fall."

This is the second grievance that Bernard Keppenne points out: granting such a free pass to fossil fuels "goes against the government's logic of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions". On September 11, a week ago to the day, Emmanuel Macron deemed the G20 climate resolutions "insufficient" and called for strengthening efforts to phase out fossil fuels.

Relative efficiency

Finally, "if selling at a loss is not usually allowed, it is for one reason," says Philippe Crevel: the distortion of competition. This is the problem posed by this measure, "it digs a huge injustice between small independent pump attendants and supermarkets, which have much more room to amortize the price of gasoline - or even can more easily pass it on elsewhere". An advantage of the Goliath against the Davids "which could cause heavy damage to the latter". Especially "as this defavoritism goes against the law Planning of territories, which promised to watch over the independents," adds Philippe Crevel.

The competitive disadvantage of these small pump attendants has another negative effect on the wallet of the French. Sylvain Bersinger, economist at Asterès: "The margins of pump attendants are low, about 2 cents per liter of fuel. Even if they sold slightly at a loss, the gain would at best be only a few cents per liter (for motorists). This possibility does not therefore seem to be able to significantly increase the purchasing power of households. With one more nuance: "Such a sale at a loss is however unlikely without compensation from the State. »

Philippe Crevel made the same observation: "If the government really wanted to act on the price of gasoline, it would have had to take real measures: a reduction in taxes, an energy check, a reduction in VAT ... » New consensus among the experts contacted. Between the energy transition and the strategy put in place by the countries of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, we will have to get used to the fact that the price of gasoline is high. And to the pain felt during the passage to the pump.

  • Consumption
  • Economy
  • Gasoline prices
  • Petrol
  • Petroleum
  • Government