France is at loggerheads with Amazon once again.
The French finance ministry said Monday it has brought a court case against Amazon for abuse of its dominant position on marketplace, the retail giant's third-party vendor platform.
The ministry said there is “a significant imbalance” in business relations between Amazon and vendors selling products on its platform, saying it was seeking a fine against Amazon of around €10 million.
The case follows a two-year investigation into third-party vendor platforms, including Amazon's, which was carried out by French competition and consumer protection body, the DGCCRF.
The consumer group claims that in order to sell on the platform and benefit from Amazon's 3.5 million visitors a day in France, the more than 10,000 French companies listed on the site are asked to agree to unfair terms which sometimes “push them to the point of bankruptcy”.
The unit found several clauses it believes to be illegal in agreements with third-party vendors on Amazon's French marketplace platform.
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According to Le Parisien daily, which first reported the case, Amazon has the power to modify contracts at a moment's notice, demand shorter delivery times or block deliveries while demanding additional corporate information from vendors.
“The platform imposes an unbalanced relationship with its sellers,” said Tanguy. “This is very similar to the relationship between supermarkets and their suppliers.”
Other platforms, including Cdiscount and Rue du Commerce, had already agreed to bring their rules into line with the ministry's requirements, Tanguy said.
But for Amazon “we believe that the practices were more unfair” than at other sites, prompting the legal action, he said.
Tanguy said it was the ministry's job to ensure that “relations between the various actors are balanced, so there can be no abuse of negotiation power on the part of some actors”.
This isn't the first time the French authorities have played David and Goliath with US internet giants.
In July, The Local reported on a push from France's finance minister Bruno Le Maire who urged his European counterparts to do more to chase down tax due from the European operations of US tech giants such as Google, Amazon and Facebook.
And in 2016, authorities in Paris vowed to protect the interest of independent stores against Amazon's high speed one–hour delivery service.