Country Snapshot: France

Marc Jarrett
France had a bad start when people starting signing online to the Internet. Granted, it has the privilege of being the only country that has been selling online since 1980. But the enemy was within: the long-standing Minitel, a teletext system that did much of what the web does for us today.

The post office gave out free terminals for every phone line, and Minitel became such an important standard which is why web usage was initially slow to take off in this country which has about 64 million inhabitants.

Eventually the web won out, but not without a fight. Consequently, both the Internet and credit card penetration levels are lower to those of most other developed countries. According to, currently 53.7 percent of French households have access to the web, accounting for 10.2 percent of the overall European market.

Pay-per-call phone billing remains popular in France, not least since it is capped – French users know that they will be charged no more than €0.34 per Minute over and above a €1.35 connection fee – so take-up for paying for web content this way is high since French surfers know in advance that they will not end up with an exorbitant phone bill at the end of the month.

As for what pushes their buttons, the French have historically always had a tolerant attitude to sex and nudity – as the worldwide popularity of renowned erotic cabarets of the Moulin Rouge and Lido in Paris bear witness.

Furthermore, as with their German neighbors next door, the French also seem to display a healthy appetite for all things fetish.

It is also worth bearing in mind that whilst the French adore love, romance, sex and porn, they are fiercely patriotic when it comes to their language – so woe be to any webmaster who pitches them in ‘Anglais’ – most won’t understand you, and those that do will probably not want to buy from you anyway for selling to them in English in the first place. So, please, sell to them in French!

Doing so will ensure that you are in a position to fully capitalize on this rich market which still shows plenty of scope for growth both in the fixed line and mobile Internet sectors.