The debate over the free carafe and glass of water at the restaurant has caused much ink to flow. Initially, the carafe was included and therefore free when you ordered a meal (decree n° 25-268 of June 8, 1967, later repealed), because it was provided that “the cutlery must include, in addition to bread, ordinary water, spices or ingredients, all products or articles, such as crockery, glassware, napkins, etc., usually made available to the customer during meals”. On the other hand, the glass of water was not a due with a simple coffee.
A debate closed since January 1, 2022
But the law of February 10, 2020, relating to the fight against waste and the circular economy, changes the situation on January 1, 2022.
Tap water is now free in the restaurant
The law of February 10, 2020 provides that from January 1, 2022catering establishments and drinking establishments “are required to indicate in a visible manner on their card or on a display space the possibility for consumers to request free drinking water. These establishments must give access to their customers to fresh or temperate drinking water, corresponding to a beverage use” (art. L 541-15-10, III of the Environmental Code).
Consequently, the law (which makes no distinction depending on whether you are having a meal or a simple drink) requires the restaurateur, café owner, bistro owner, etc., to give you free access to drinking water.. They even have to tell you about it on their card or on a sign of their establishment. So you can calmly ask for your carafe or your glass of water.
What if you get rejected?
Please note, not all refusals are illegitimate: it goes without saying that if you do not consume at all, you cannot demand water. The law provides free water for “consumers”. If you accompany a friend but you do not drink anything, the trader may refuse to serve you water. But if you use, its refusal is illegal.
This practice, which aims to push you to consume paid bottled water, is not justified, even in high-end restaurants. You can call back courteously and, if the restaurateur persists, report this incident to the DGCCRF (General Directorate for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Prevention). Fortunately, refusals are rare because it damages the brand image of the establishment and does not promote customer loyalty.
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