French Finance Officials to Investigate Nutella Sales Riots

Europeans usually pride themselves on being more polite and orderly than their American counterparts, which makes the recent scene witnessed last week at Intermarché shops across France even more incredible. In an event reminiscent of Black Friday sales events in the United States, fighting and small-scale riots broke out as French shoppers jostled to get their hands on jars of heavily discounted Nutella spread. Now, France’s consumer protection and anti-fraud agency is stepping in and has announced that it is investigating the Nutella promotion to determine whether it broke the country’s strict trading laws.

Under French law, retailers are limited as to the size of discounts they can offer except during official sales periods. By dropping the price of a 950-gram jar of Nutella from €4.50 to €1.41—a 70 percent discount—Intermarché could be found to be in violation of this law. Although the supermarket chain claims that this was a normal sale, French officials are investigating to determine whether or not it was actually an instance of product dumping rather than a standard sale.

French law prohibits stores from engaging in product dumping or selling food products at a loss, but there is not yet sufficient evidence either way to establish whether this is what Intermarché did. For its part, the supermarket chain claims that the sale fell within the official six-week winter sales period. However, the law states that stores are only allowed to offer discounts on food products during this period if the store purchased the products at least one month before the sale period.

In addition, the discounted price must still be considered fair. This is where Intermarché could run into trouble as it must prove that a 70 percent discount is somehow fair. Furthermore, officials will investigate to see how much the chain originally paid for the Nutella to ensure the sale wasn’t merely an instance of product dumping.

The three-day Nutella discount sparked scenes that have shocked France and are forcing many citizens to reevaluate the way they see themselves. Fighting and rioting over sales items isn’t something usually seen outside the United States, but here were normal French people punching, pulling hair and bloodying each other simply to get their hands on everyone’s favorite hazelnut-chocolate spread. It wasn’t a pleasant sight. However, considering the potential penalties that Intermarché could face for the incident, the chances of seeing another sales-related riot in France anytime soon are quite minimal.

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