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The Ultimate Guide to Setting Up Utilities in France

Your ultimate guide to setting up utilities here

Moving to France and feeling overwhelmed by the paperwork? Look no further. We've got everything you need to know about your utilities in France, all in one place!


  • Setting Up Utilities in France: What You Need to Know
  • If you are responsible for them, you need to open an account in your name for all of your utility services (electricity, Internet, water, etc)
  • You need to have the following information handy when setting up an account for utilities: your personal contact information, full address (including apartment number/floor, if applicable), name of the previous occupant, and your French bank account number
  • Utility bills usually come once every two months, and direct/automated payment is most common
  • Energy consumption is usually estimated based on previous bills, with a meter reader coming once or twice a year to verify your consumption

Electricity

Selectra can help you open an electricity account in your name in minutes. Our English-speaking advisors are available Monday through Friday from 8.30 am to 8 pm (Saturdays: 9.30 am to 6 pm).
 09 87 67 37 93

electricity service in france

Electricity in France is deregulated, meaning that you have a choice of supplier. Power distribution throughout most of France is managed by Enedis (formerly ERDF), which responds to power outages and may be called in to activate electricity service. EDF (Electricité de France) is the historic electricity supplier, and remains the largest actor on the market to this day, but alternate suppliers offer lower rates.

Ideally it is recommended to set up an electricity account in your name about two weeks before you move in (to ensure no interruptions to service), but suppliers can often work quicker. Keep in mind, however, that if electricity service has already been cut (which often happens if the home's previous occupant at least six months prior to your move in), it may take a few days for Enedis to reactivate your service. You can find out more about activating electricity service in our guide.

To open an account for electricity in your name, simply call your chosen supplier and provide them with:

  • Your contact information: name, e-mail address, phone number
  • The address of your new accommodation. Don't forget the floor and apartment number if it is a flat (e.g. third floor, door on the left)
  • The name of the previous occupant
  • Your banking information (IBAN and BIC, if you choose automatic payment)

You can also set up a new electricity account with a supplier online, or at one of their agencies (if you have chosen to go with EDF), but setting up an account over the phone is often quicker.

English-Speaking Customer Service Telephone Numbers for Electricity

EDF is currently the only supplier to offer a dedicated English-speaking customer service helpline, available at 09 69 36 63 83. Press 2 for commercial support and to open an account.

Selectra is an independent energy comparison service that helps customers find energy plans that are cheaper than the EDF regulated tariff. They offer a English-speaking helpline available at 09 87 67 37 93, Monday through Friday from 8.30 am to 8 pm, and Saturdays from 9.30 am to 6 pm.

Billing and Meter Reading

light bulb

Electricity bills are usually sent once every two months, and are estimated based on previous consumption for your home. An ERDF representative will come to your home twice a year to check your actual consumption, and your monthly estimated amount will be adjusted accordingly. Your payment options can vary depending on the supplier and plan, but most suppliers set up direct payment.

Your electricity bill contains two charges: a fixed subscription charge, and the per kWh rate for the power you consume. The regulated tariffs from EDF are fixed by public authorities, and change about once a year, but alternate suppliers often offer discounts on one or both of these charges, guaranteeing you savings. Prices can also depend on the type of plan you choose: a fixed price that stays the same regardless of the time of day, or a peak/off-peak plan.

Voltage, Outlets, Plugs, and Appliances

Electricity in France runs at 230 Volts, meaning that if you are coming from another country in Europe, you should be able to use your electrical devices (though you may need to purchase a plug adaptor). If you're coming to France from North America, however, watch out! As electricity in North America runs on 120 V, hair dryers and other electronic devices might not work properly. Find out how to check device compatibility in our guide to sockets and voltage in France.

Closing an Electricity Account

You do not have to worry about closing your account with your current supplier if you decide to switch suppliers or are moving to another part of France. As most suppliers provide service throughout the majority of France, in most cases your supply will continue at your new residence. You should, however, notify them in advance of your move (at least two weeks is ideal). Your new supplier will notify your old supplier of the switch if you decide to change suppliers.

Energy suppliers in France cannot charge early termination fees, so you can close your electricity account at any time without penalty. You can cancel your plan over the phone, online, or by sending a letter in recommended post (recommandé avec avis de réception).

You will need to provide the following information to close your electricity account:

  • Your full name
  • Your account number (numéro de client)
  • The site ID for your meter (numéro de point de livraison - PDL)
  • The date to close the account

You can also save yourself some time and hassle by using Selectra's cancellation service, which allows you to download a free cancellation letter template, or can cancel your contract on your behalf.

Gas

gas utilities in france

Like electricity, natural gas supply is open to competition, meaning that you have a choice of who supplies your natural gas. The gas distribution network is operated by GRDF, but in most cases your first point of contact for questions about your gas service will be your supplier. The historic supplier for natural gas is Engie (formerly GDF Suez). As is the case for electricity, Engie/GDF Suez is the only supplier that sells gas at the regulated tariff, but alternate suppliers have more competitive offers.

To open an account for natural gas, simply call your chosen provider and provide them with:

  • Your contact information: name, e-mail address, phone number
  • The address of your new accommodation, including the floor and apartment number if it is a flat (e.g. "rez-de-chaussée", or "5ème étage, porte à droite")
  • The name of the home's previous occupant
  • Your banking information (IBAN and BIC)

It's best to open an account for natural gas at least two weeks before your move in date, in order to ensure that your service isn't cut. However, suppliers can usually open an account with less time if it isn't possible to provide advanced warning. If your natural gas service has been deactivated (which typically happens once a home remains unoccupied for at least six months), your supplier will have to arrange for GRDF to restart supply, which can take up to five business days.

Billing

As is the case for electricity, gas bills estimated on previous consumption, and usually are sent out once every two months. Your natural gas bill will contain two types of charges: a fixed subscription charge (prix de l'abonnement), and a charge for the amount of energy you have consumed. Natural gas is measured in kWh in France, so you will see this marked as the prix par kWh

Meter Reading

GRDF - the natural gas distribution network operator - is responsible for reading your meter and responding to any technical problems (such as if you smell a gas leak). Your meter is typically read once every six months.

Closing an Account for Natural Gas

The process for closing an account for natural gas is the same as for electricity: you don't have to contact your previous supplier if you are switching (as your new supplier will do it for you), but you should provide advanced notice if you change addresses and/or need to close your account. As most suppliers provide service throughout the country, you shouldn't have to close your natural gas account if you are moving to another address in France.

Depending on your supplier, you should be able to modify/cancel your plan over the phone or in your online personal space. If sending a cancellation letter by post (lettre de lettre de résiliation recommandé avec avis de réception), make sure to include the following information:

light bulb
  • Your full name and signature
  • Your account number and PEC (point d'estimation de consommation)
  • The date you no longer require service

You can also save yourself some time and hassle by using Selectra's cancellation service, which can take care of the whole process on your behalf.

Bottled Gas/Propane

Many homes in rural parts of France are not connected to natural gas lines, and are set up with propane gas tanks instead. These tanks can be rented for a monthly charge along with the supply, or you can pay a deposit to a supplier and avoid paying tank-rental fees. You can also purchase a gas tank and negotiate supply from a supplier, but this is a less common option. Find out more about propane in France.

Bottled gas is more expensive than being connected to the gas mains, but may be your only option if you live in a rural area. They come in sizes ranging from 5 kg - 35 kg, and can be bought from petrol stations and supermarkets. Trading in your empty bottle for a new one is cheaper and allows you to avoid having to pay a deposit on a new one. Note that you have to suppliers only accept their own bottles - you cannot trade an empty bottle from Antargaz to get a new full one from Butagaz, for example!

Water

water utilities in france

Mains water throughout much of France has been privatized, but water supply infrastructure, is typically operated by local communes, which sign contracts with suppliers to provide service for their area. The three largest water suppliers in France are Veolia and Suez Environnement (formerly Lyonnaise des Eaux), and Saur Group. Check with your local Mairie (town hall) to find out which supplier provides service in your area, and how to contact them to open an account in your name. Water is typically billed by the cubic metre. The average annual water bill for a house in France is about 453.60€, or about 3.78€/cubic metre, but rates are fixed by the local commune and range widely across the country.

In most cases you will not need to open an account for water if you are moving into an apartment building, as costs are generally shared. If you are moving to a house, call the local water supply company to open an account. The following information will be required:

  • Your contact information: name, e-mail address, phone number
  • Your new address
  • The name of the home's previous occupant

Sewerage

While homes in urban areas are connected to mains sewerage systems, some rural homes may not. Individual sewerage systems (filière d’assainissement non collectif or autonome) require regular checks to ensure they meet national standards. If you are considering purchasing a home that has a sceptic tank (une fosse septique), check to see if it is possible to be joined to the mains drainage system as there are projects to connect rural areas at the moment.

Rubbish Collection

rubbish collection france

As is the case for water, rubbish collection throughout much of France is privatized but is organized by the local mairie (town hall). Collection days and frequence depends on the area - check with the mairie for the schedule in your area. You usually do not have to open an account or complete any administrative steps for rubbish collection - costs are covered in an annual rubbish collection tax (taxe/redevance d'enlèvement des ordures ménagères)

Recycling in France

France introduced formal recycling systems in the 1990s, and about 98% of the country has some form of recycling services available. What materials are recycled and how they are collected depends on the area. The most commonly accepted materials for recycling are paper/cardboard, glass containers, and some plastic containers/packaging. It is becoming increasingly common to find recycling spots for specific products in shops (e.g. recycle corks in Nicolas wine shops, used batteries in Carrefour, electronics in electronics shops)

Most apartment buildings are equipped with at least two plastic bins, one for recycling and one for general rubbish. You may find glass recycling bins on the street, depending on where you live.

Internet

Choose an Internet providerSelectra's English-speaking advisors can help you get Internet set up for your new home in France09 77 55 72 27

internet in france

There are several telecommunications operators in France: Orange (formerly France Telecom), SFR, Bouygues Telecom, and Free. All suppliers sell package offers (which are often known as a "box") of Internet + fixed telephone line, with the option of adding on TV and/or a mobile phone plan. Prices amongst suppliers are quite competitive. It's a good idea to compare prices before deciding on a supplier, as they often run limited-time offers throughout the year. Find out more about setting up Internet service in France

You can sign up for an Internet plan over the phone, in a provider's shop, or online. Some electronics shops also sell Internet plans on behalf of the providers. You will need to have the following information handy when signing up for an Internet plan in France:

  • Your contact information: name, e-mail address, phone number, address
  • A piece of ID (your passport or your visa)
  • The name of the home's previous occupant (not necessary, but may be helpful if they need to test your ADSL/fiber optic eligibility)
  • Your banking information (IBAN and BIC, if you choose automatic payment)

Many providers offer Internet plans sans engagement (contract-free), allowing you to end the plan at any time with no penalty and relatively little hassle.

In some parts of France, known as zones partiellement dégroupées or zones non-dégroupées, your choices of provider are limited. Find out more about dégroupage (unbundling) in France and how it affects your Internet options in our guide.

Telephone

France Telecom (now Orange) is the historic telecommunications operator for France, though the company now must compete with other providers (SFR, Bouygues Telecom, Free). All of the major suppliers offer a fixed telephone line as part of their "Box" Internet offers, though only SFR and Orange offer a fixed telephone line plan by itself (as of April 2016).

While telephone lines throughout most of France are "unbundled", meaning that all providers have full access to phone line infrastructure, in some areas (zones partiellement dégroupées or zones non-dégroupées) Orange still has control over the telephone lines, and alternate suppliers must pay a monthly fee to "rent" it. This can make going with another provider more expensive.

You need to have the following information in order to set up a fixed telephone line:

telephone in France
  • Your full address, including apartment number/directions (e.g. 4th floor, door on the left) and postal code
  • Proof of identification: photocopy of your passport, birth certificate, etc.
  • Proof of address (justificatif de domicile): an electricity bill (from within the past three months), tax bill, or rent receipt (quittance de loyer)
  • Your banking information (RIB): you need to have a French bank account already set up before you sign up for a telephone plan in France. Some suppliers may also ask for your bank card (carte bancaire) information, which is used for activation fees/deposit.

You can find out more about setting up a fixed telephone line in our guide.

Mobile Phones

mobile phones in france

A mobile phone is invaluable in France, and plans are relatively affordable compared to other countries. All of the major Internet providers offer mobile phone plans, along with several smaller MVNOs. Prices are competitive, and providers often run limited-time promotions, so it's well-worth comparing offers before signing up for a mobile phone plan. You can sign up for a mobile phone plan online, over the phone, in a provider's boutique, or in a large electronics shop (FNAC, Darty, etc). You will need the following information with you in order to purchase a mobile phone and/or sign up for a mobile phone plan:

  • Your address and contact information (email address, fixed telephone number, if you have one already)
  • Proof of identification: photocopy of your passport, birth certificate, etc.
  • Proof of address (justificatif de domicile): an energy bill (from within the past three months), tax bill, or rent receipt (quittance de loyer)
  • Your banking information (RIB): most providers require that you have a French bank account to set up a post-paid plan. Some may also ask for your bank card (carte bancaire) information, which is used for activation fees/deposit.

Important English-Speaking Numbers in France

Here are some important English-speaking telephone numbers to remember when in France:

  • Emergencies: 112 - the International European emergency number. Call this number for any emergency service (ambulance, fire brigade, police) anywhere throughout Europe. This number is free to call from any fixed line or mobile phone
  • Electricity, gas account activation: 09 87 67 37 93 - Selectra's English-speaking customer service line. Call this number to sign up with an electric or gas plan with one of our partner suppliers that is guaranteed cheaper than the EDF/GDF Suez regulated tariffs. This number is free to call from any fixed telephone in France
  • Internet, mobile phone plans: 09 77 55 72 27 - Selectra's English-speaking helpline for mobile phone and Internet plans. It is free to call from a fixed telephone number in France. 
  • EDF English-speaking telephone number: 09 69 36 63 83. Call this number to sign up for the regulated tariffs with EDF. This number is free to call from a French fixed telephone line
  • Orange (formerly France Telecom) English-speaking telephone number: 09 69 36 39 00. This number is also free when dialed from a fixed telephone line in France
  • Healthcare/Carte Vitale: 34 46. This is the number for Ameli's English-speaking service. Calls cost 0.06 €/min + any applicable operator call charges 

Find more important numbers in France in our guide.