In February 2016, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”), tasked by the French government, published three separate opinions on the proposed French government reform of the driver’s licence examination conditions. The reforms aim at reducing the time and costs for candidates to obtain their driver’s licences.
The driver’s licence examination in France is and will continue to be made up of two parts: the driving theory test (known in France as the “Code”) and the practical in-car test.
In spite of a recent increase in the number of government inspectors, it still takes much longer in France to take the exam (an average 72 days in France compared to an average 45 days in the EU in 2015). Excessive waiting periods in France have come with a range of detrimental consequences for candidates such as (1) the need to take more driving lesson between the theory test and the practical test to keep up their level, thereby driving up the total price of a driver’s license, (as driving lessons in France are dispensed by private driving schools) (2) a delay in entering the workforce as many employers require job candidates to have a driver’s licence, and (3) being tempted to drive without a driver’s licence while finalizing the examination, which causes serious public safety concerns.
Overall, the FCA hails the reform as providing greater economic efficiency. For instance, the FCA approves of the proposed outsourcing of the theory test, the administration of which may now be delegated to certified third party operators. Furthermore, the FCA approves of the proposed regulation of fees charged to candidates by driving schools.
However, as the present system has produced discrepancies between the treatment of candidates from one driving school or another, the FCA calls for more equal access to the exam for candidates as well as for greater competition between driving schools.
In spite of the fact that the proposed reform provides that the method for the allocation of exam spots must be objective, transparent, non-discriminatory and must not encourage competition between driving schools, the FCA considers that the measures put forth by the government are not truly in line with this provision as the method of allocation of exam slots relies on the past level of activity of each driving school. The FCA suggests instead that the allocation method be based more accurately on a monthly assessment which would take into account the real-time number of candidates who have passed the theory test but have not yet taken the practical test.
Moreover, the FCA suggests the putting into place of an online individual system for candidates to register to take the exam, to replace the current system whereby registrations are made by the driving schools. Space would be allocated depending on the date of registration of each candidate, as is the case in the UK.