Artisans, business SIRET & APE codes
If you are thinking of having some work done on your French property you should be aware of a starting point that could assist in the decision making process as to which artisan is right for you.
All trades, businesses or individuals working for themselves in France need to be registered with the French government organisation called INSEE Institute National de la Statistique et des Etudes Economiques. This is the body charged with the registration of records and activities of enterprises in France. On registration all businesses are given a unique identification number which is recorded alongside their principle activity.
The individuals unique identification code is called the SIRET or SIREN and his registered activity code is known as the APE or NAF code.
In the global scheme of things there is no reason why you should know the difference between the SIRET and APE codes. They are just terms that mean something to people running businesses in France. However, and here it gets interesting, anybody French would know. Any advertising, documentation such as business cards, invoices, or devis (estimates) that are produced for French media or individual French person perusal must have a Siret clearly indicated, which can be checked through sites like www.infogreffe.fr to see what activities the particular business or professional is registered to offer (only the first nine numbers of the siret need to be entered into the appropriate box). The adverts in public domain must have an APE code, and most trades supply an explanation of this code after it.
This system offers a quick check as to the artisans situation regarding being able to legally work in France and what service they are registered to offer as a main activity. So if you are looking for an electrician and a person with a Siret or APE registered activity of gardening offers their services, it gives you a question to ask.
How does this concern you?
Any individual employing an unregistered artisan in France runs the risk of being fined and invalidating any insurance claim they have to make as a result of substandard work carried out by said artisan. You also have little or no redress against them if it proves to be required. The same applies if you employ someone to carry out works for which they are not registered to offer.
For the artisan or trade it offers a certainty that their work is valued. They have to show the regulating authority they have either qualifications and/or experience in their chosen trade. This means that the rates they charge have to be sufficient to cover the social costs and taxes that all businesses in France have to pay. The status of Artisan in France is rightly considered important, to the individual for the works they do, and to the government for the taxes they supply. They justifiably protect this status, for the good of the artisan, and to the benefit of the consumer.