Opening a French bank account is relatively simple, but can be the subject of frustrating delays which appear inexplicable to the client. In the interests of preventing money laundering (the reason usually given), increasing amounts of doculmentation are asked for, to prove that you are who you say you are. If you are not living and working fulltime in France, or receiving pension payments, the French bank may require proof of your non-French resources, such as salary slips, and/or UK bank statements.
All this can take several weeks, as new accounts are eventually approved by the Banque de France, meanwhile the client has no way of paying French bills - for utilities, suppliers, artisans etc - other than in cash (only allowed for small amounts) or bank to bank transfers from his home bank. It is not uncommon for utilities to be cut off without warning as a result of non-payment of the initial bill when moving into a French property.
Regular bills, such as those for electricity, gas, telephone etc can be paid by standing orders ('prélèvements') and the first bills received usually include a form to complete and return to the supplier, which will be passed in turn to your French bank, once the account has been opened.
In view of the delays associated with opening a French bank account and its sometimes annoying consequences, we advise clients to set up a French bank account well ahead of the intended completion/occupation date of any property purchase, allowing at least two months - which is normally the time allowed for completing a French property purchase from initial offer to final contract.