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Tap water is a public resource, widely available and often offered for free in restaurants. However, a growing trend among some restaurateurs is to charge for filtered or carbonated tap water. This practice was notably initiated by the American giant McDonald’s. In fact, the fast-food chain announced a few years ago that it was stopping the sale of small bottles of water which had finally been replaced by filtered tap water in cups. A novelty which had given way to consumer indignation. And unfortunately, over time, charging for filtered or carbonated tap water has become increasingly commonplace in culinary establishments. But is it really legal?

The magazine 60 Millions de Consommateurs looked into the issue after an alert from one of its readers. “When I asked the waiter at a Parisian restaurant for a bottle of San Pellegrino, he offered me another sparkling water, Aquachiara. It was only when the bottle, actually a carafe, arrived on the table that I realized the trick”he explained. This consumer had to pay a bill of €5 for 75 cl.

Is this practice legal? Indeed, in France, a law clearly prohibits the sale of tap water. “Since decree no. 25-268 of June 8, 1967, a restaurateur cannot charge you for a carafe of tap water,” indicates the media. But, can filtered water be considered simple tap water? There is still legal uncertainty surrounding this still too recent practice.

To be able to sell filtered or carbonated tap water at exorbitant prices, some restaurateurs have invested in fountains directly connected to the drinking water network. The Aquachiara company behind this novelty promises much better water than that straight out of the tap but at a lower cost for the restaurant owner. In return, the consumer must give money in exchange for a carafe of water.

In any case, this does not exempt the restaurant owner from displaying and offering free drinking water to his customers. It is even an obligation under article 77 of the law relating to the fight against waste


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