By Dennis Abrams
The French cultural minister Aurelie Filppetti has announced plans to introduce a law that would prevent Amazon from offering both free delivery and discounts in France, arguing that their business practice amounts to unfair competition.
Unlike in the United States, for example, where free delivery requires a minimum $25 purchase or participation in Amazon’s “Prime” program, in France Amazon.fr offers free delivery for for books, shoes and clothing with no minimum amount.
Filppetti said that the government had been looking for the right time to introduce a ban on the practice, which French booksellers claim threatens their business model by allowing Amazon to undercut their prices.
“I’m in favor of ending the possibility of offering both free delivery and a five percent discount,” she told BFM news television on Friday. “We need a law, so we’re going to find a legislative window to find one.”
France, like other European countries, bans retailers from discounting books more than 5 percent from a sale price set by the publisher in order to prevent small businesses from getting crushed by giant retailers that can absorb bigger discounts.
Guillaume Husson, spokesman for the SLF book retailer’s union, said that Amazon’s practice of bundling a 5 percent discount with free delivery amounted to selling books at a loss, which was impossible for traditional bookstores of any size to be able to match.
“Today the competition is unfair…No other book retailer, whether a small or large book or even a chain, can allows itself to lose that much money,” he said, referring to the losses Amazon is alleged to suffer with its offer of free delivery.
Indeed, the dispute with Amazon, fresh on the heels of France’s recent dispute with Google, underscored the tensions that exist between the French government and U.S. online firms which have been criticized for paying too little to the creators of cultural or news content.
“This is not just in France,” Filippetti said. “Amazon’s behavior, and the risks it poses for the survival of a whole network of book stores and the entire chain of book production, are obvious in France and in the United States too.”
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