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France demands Amazon delivers €10 million in fines for ‘abusive practices’

France has demanded €10 million in fines from US internet giant Amazon for the abusive rules the company imposes on its French suppliers.

France demands Amazon delivers €10 million in fines for 'abusive practices'
Photo: AFP

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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Photo: AFP
 
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.  
  
 

PROTESTS

Hundreds protest Amazon expansion in France

Hundreds rallied in several French towns on Saturday, January 30th, in protests against Amazon called by anti-capitalist and environmental groups, including at one site where the US e-commerce giant plans a massive warehouse.

Hundreds protest Amazon expansion in France
Image: Raymond Roig / AFP

Amazon plans to set up a 38,000-square-metre (400,000-square-feet) facility in the small southern town of Fournes near the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct bridge that is a World Heritage site.

A crowd police said numbered around 800 and which organisers estimated at 1,400 rallied at the site, planting shrubs in front of huge banners reading “Stop Amazon” and “Not here or anywhere”.

They formed a human chain to show the size of the project, while multicoloured balloons floated 18 metres (60 feet) up to indicate the height of the planned five-storey facility.

“It's two years that the citizens of Fournes and its surroundings have fought against the installation of a giant Amazon warehouse,” said Raphael Pradeau, spokesman for French citizens' activist group Attac.

“At the start they were a bit alone against everyone, but they have succeeded in halting the project thanks to legal recourse.”

“We want to show that these are not small isolated fights and that we can mobilise hundreds of people who are ready to return to stop the work”, said Pradeau.

Protesters in Fournes, France. Photo: Sylvain Thomas / AFP

Precarious jobs

Sarah Latour, 38, came with her two sons aged eight and six, and the family
planted a shrub in waste ground, where vines had once grown.

“These plants, these shrubs that we are planting today are a symbol of life that contrasts with the concreting that Amazon practises,” she said. “I came with my children because I don't want this destructive model for them.”

About 200 people also rallied outside an Amazon facility in Carquefou, a suburb of the western city of Nantes, organisers said.

“We condemn Amazon for destroying more jobs than they create, and that these are insecure jobs,” said Sophie Jallier, a spokeswoman for the organisers in Carquefou.

In the eastern town of Ensisheim, about 100 people gathered to protest a plan to build a giant warehouse on a 15-hectare site of former agricultural land. Bannners read “Amazon, Fiscal Vampire” and “No mega warehouse.”

“Today, we condemn an economic system that is at the end of its rope and which is using the planet,” said Isabelle Schaeffer, a member of an environmental group in the Sud Alsace region.

Other protests were held in Augny, in the eastern Moselle region, and in Perpignan in the south.

Amazon practices “unfair competition with regard to businesses that pay their taxes in France”, Eric Barbier of the environmental group Alteratiba said in Perpignan.

In addition, “most workers are on precarious contracts, hired during peak periods such as Black Friday or Christmas and are then thrown out”.

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