The Envelope Rant

Envelopes? ENVELOPES?
Hello everyone its been a long time since I have had time to visit SFN. Brexit has made my life a misery. But that’s for another rant…

I made time today, because I have gone ‘full-victor-meldrew’ and the urge to offload the frustration and attempt to encourage a common-sense against nutty obsessives is stronger than my need to go to work.
Any old excuse.

A visit to the insurance office occured.
The problem: a demand for payment of a whole year’s contributions, up-front, on some professional public liability (responsabilitie civile).
We needed to change the detail in line with new professional activities and had decided to cancel it anyway and shop around, because it seemed too expensive. (Suggestions welcome)

Apparently - here’s the thing - you have to give 2 month’s ADVANCE notice to cancel any pro insurance ONLY BY RECORDED DELIVERY - An acknowledged email is not considered proof even if it contains a signed PDF. (pinch me. Is this 2017 or 1917?)

But this is no short-rant. Oh no. My insurance agent/foncionnairess, insisted that the only other way is to wait for a “notice of payment due”. In order to prove you have done this within the 20 days of receiving a notice, under some commonly quoted insurance law (I forget the name)


I think this woman has invented her little envelope plan in order to prove her a clever and efficient cog in an imaginary machine. She was very insistent that everyone in France knows ALL about keeping envelopes and it’s just the way we all do it here.(How many times have we all heard that?) French people, apparently are born with special envelope keeping pockets that magically evolve into personalised envelope-safes at the age of consent.

I am Meldrew mortified, that my lovely home (a caravan and a beautiful, simple little off-grid eco-workshop in the woods) now apparently needs to make MORE space for paper storage, not less. It goes right against my view of modernity, sustainable practices, progress and freedom of movement.(I had to get brexit pain in here somewhere)

On a more personal level it means more frustration and actual real pain, as I have enough trouble moving things around with scoliosis, without needing an extra raft of things to collect, store and find when required. Life is just too short and uncomfortable for more of this utter nonsense. N’importe quoi! For goodness sake, there are people on the streets proclaiming Trump king and Hitler cool and someone wants me to waste precious life saving envelopes?

Fear not ye who have hope. Because there is a bit.
I will not be keeping envelopes. You don’t need to keep them. It turns out it’s all made up nonsense.

Envelopes will be burned in my new rocket stove mass heater made with dirt from my garden as soon as possible.
Envelopes will be Ex-envelopes.
Envelopes will be recycled efficiently and quickly, thereby saving us from climate-change, saving me from insanity, adding to the evidence for moving away from a consumerist economy and towards a sustainable one, full of fun and frolicks.
My envelopes and yours, will kill dirty coal, take funds away from trump’s oil dinosaurs and ruin the illegal arms and drugs trade. Our envelopes will provide fresh water for billions.
Envelopes will kill poverty and save lives, not trip them over.
Envelopes can be free.

If some anally retentive fonctionaire with no sense of proportion dares to find that I failed because I did not keep the envelope, they can carry me away away kicking and screaming to the nearest detention centre shouting I DON’T BELIEVE IT. But not before a long and enduring court-case to defend the right to be free of a forest of paperwork that chokes the blood from our very bodies. It will be known as the Great Envelope Revolution
GER. the same as the sound my mouth makes when fonctionairres make up tall tales.

PS . My french friends have never kept envelopes. My 85 year old french neighbour doesn’t keep hers. My ex-landlord visited me yesterday. He is French. Owns several houses, is in his 50’s. Worked in civil service, owned businesses, drives buses. He has never once heard of anyone needing to provide an envelope as proof of receiving a letter.
That, evidement, is what recorded delivery and email is for. Voila.


Hello Jo

I’m flabbergasted! How can an envelope prove the date that a letter is received? It shows the date that it’s sent of course but not the date of receipt. How absurd!!! Some people seem to make it up as they go along. I have also been the victim of this in the past when trying to exchange my UK driving licence for a French one. I nearly hit the woman I was dealing with out of sheer frustration at the absurdity of the situation. I’m feeling my blood pressure rising just thinking about it now.

I have enormous sympathy for you although I doubt that helps much.

Bon courage!

I LOVE your post and feel your pain. Sounds like you need @fabien to help…

see our agent I just rang her last week and cancelled a policy had the paperwork it was done 2 days later.

Sound like your agent is a money grabber who is bleeding client so trying all the dirty tricks to stop people leaving.

Envelopes or no envelopes the conditions for changing or cancelling insurances in France are heavily regulated.

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Can you tell me more about any regulations that favor the insured (versus the insurance companies)? We recently learned of the 2-month cancellation rule. We also learned that our ‘past failure to provide 2-months’ notice’ is somehow shared among insurance companies.

I too have just had a little problem. I received an ‘official letter’ on the 28th December, postmarked 27th December with a priority flag.
The letter inside was dated the 23rd December and informed me that if I didn’t send documents asked for within 10 days of the date of the letter then I would incur penalities.
As the documents required need to be sent from another French organisation to me, and I then have to send them on, this just ‘aint gonna happen’ !
I 'phoned the department concerned to ask why the letter was sent so late? The reply …" well the dates on the letters are when they are written, they then have to wait to be signed by the director, if he is ‘unavavilable’ then they don’t go out until late".
Upshot is they have accepted that the ‘situation’ can’t be remedied quickly and have noted on their files that the information will be sent once I have this. Yes, I have the person’s name who I spoke to and also an independant French witness to the conversation (use speakerphone) so that’s that!
Incredible though isn’t it ?


Hi Roland… It has been my experience that virtually every contract, whether for insurance, electricity, mobile phone or whatever… has, in the small print,clear instructions on how to go about cancelling said contract… from the timescale, right down to the actual wording that must be used (in some cases).

Did I know this the first time I wanted to cancel something… NO, I didn’t and as a result had to continue said contract until I could legally cancel it. After that I read, re-read and minutely scrutinized every single contract … not going to be caught out again. :wink: just follow their guidelines and all goes well.

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I recently became aware of what you are corroborating about insurance contracts. I am used to – here in California – letting the insurance policies lapse, or simply sending an email to the company informing them I won’t be continuing a particular policy, or etc. I need to be fastidious about paying attention to those details. This is only one of the unpleasant differences between the way I’m used to doing business…another is the need to pay my utilities in advance, based on the utility company’s estimation of my usage. I don’t like that one bit and I am skeptical they will calculate it correctly and refund any overpayment. That’s a topic I am continuing to research.

Another unpleasantness about insurance I discovered is that one insurance company reported to another that I ‘failed to cancel the former policy’ properly…apparently they share information among each other. Maybe I’ve already tainted my ability to buy insurance in France because of that – who knows?

Thanks again for your notes.

L’impolitesse est l’imitation de force d’une personne faible.

Are you sure about your electricity bills? I pay every two months about two weeks after uploading my actual reading to my user space on the company’s website. I pay for the electricity used.

I have a ‘standing order’ (prélèvement) for electricity, I pay monthly calculated on what I used the previous year with a llittle - or + difference.
If I pay too much then my standing order is reduced the next year, and I have a credit, If I use more then it’s adjusted upwards.
Personally I find that this works well for me. No horrid surprises at year end !

It’s a shame that you refer to the differences between your American experiences and the way tasks are carried out in France as unpleasantness. It’s a good idea to be prepared to accept and adopt rather than fight against the system

Yes indeed, fighting against the system acheives nothing. At the end of the day it’s our choice to live here so we have to accept that things are different and ‘go with the flow’; Not always easy, many, many years ago, before we had Internet, and there were no other British here locally to advise, we made a big mistake with Insurance. We didn’t realise that there was the need to inform the existing company 2 months before renewal if we were going to change companies. Result, we paid a new insurer for a full year, they were so much cheaper, then had to pay the existing insurers for a year too. The new insurers couldn’t credit the money but held it for the following year. It happened at a time when cash flow was a real problem and I remember that we really had to tough it out. Wouldn’t ever like to be in that situation again so try really hard to read all the small print !

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Nobody is fighting against the system. Unpleasantness occurs just as frequently as delightedness, but I’m talking now about the unpleasant experiences, not the delightful ones.

L’impolitesse est l’imitation de force d’une personne faible.

Perhaps your use of unpleasantness just illustrates the chasm between British English and American English. I would never use unpleasant as a synonym for surprise, it’s far too negative. I’ve come across similar problems; an American friend insisted on translating I want when ordering in German despite being told that that was considered rude and I would like was correct. The joys of language.

Let’s not go down the road of what a fanny pack is in the USA ! The ‘richness’ of language is a joy, well at least my French friends laugh at lot at some of my phrases ! :wink:

Tricky reading the mounds of small print in French when you first move to France, like me, most newbies French won’t be good enough to understand.

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i took great please in repeatedly saying trie sur baise instead of trie sur baize as one man kept correcting me so i kept saying oui oui trie sur baise until someone pointed out i was taking the mickey and knew how to say it properly. its a bit like “il fac e départ” it just always sound to me like someone is swearing.