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SHOPPING

France to pass law on minimum delivery charge to protect independent bookstores

France's National Assembly passed a bill on Wednesday which will impose a minimum delivery fee for books, as a way of helping independent bookshops compete with online multinationals.

An Amazon employee prepares an order in Augny, France. Amazon will no longer be able to charge one centime for delivering books.
Amazon will no longer be able to charge one centime for delivering books. Photo: SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP.

Lawmakers from France’s lower house approved the “Bill aiming to improve the book economy and strengthen equity between its actors”, to give it its full name, which was put forward by senator Laure Darcos of Les Républicains.

The Senate passed the bill in June, and it will now return to the upper house for a second reading.

Online giants have been able to get around a 2014 law banning the free delivery of books by offering shipping at €0.01. Meanwhile it costs regular bookstores €7 on average to fulfill an order, according to the Syndicat de la Librairie Française (SLF) federation of bookshop owners.

The bill “is fully in line with the wish to return to a fixed price for books by levelling out shipping prices,” Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said, as reported by AFP.

The 1981 “Lang Law” introduced a fixed price for new books in France, meaning you will pay the same amount regardless of where you shop, with stores able to offer no more than a 5 percent discount. Bookshops believe the spirit of this law has been undermined by the rise of online shopping, since shipping costs can make prices vary dramatically.

That is why in 2014 lawmakers voted to ban giants like Amazon from shipping books for free, but independent bookshops have since complained that the American company is still able to gain an unfair advantage.

The SLF said it had “spent years denouncing this competitive imbalance which constitutes a way around the fixed price of books and an obstacle for the presence of bookshops online.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: Why you won’t find many discounts on books in France

While the Fnac chain has lent its support to the policy, Amazon is unsurprisingly less enthusiastic about the measure.

“At a time when inflation is making a marked return and when public authorities are calling for everything to be done to stop it, do we need a law which drives up the cost of books and penalises residents of small towns and rural areas?”, Frédéric Duval, Managing Director of Amazon France, said in a statement published earlier this week.

“More than half of the books bought on Amazon are from residents of towns of fewer than 10,000 inhabitants, and more than a quarter are from residents of towns of fewer than 2,000 inhabitants. For them, buying online is often the only feasible solution,” Duval added.

Once the bill has passed into law, it will be up to the Culture and Economy ministries to set the minimum delivery price, along with the Autorité de Régulation des Communications Électroniques et des Postes regulator. The amount has not yet been decided, but the SLF has argued in favour of €3 to €5.

Stores will still be authorised to offer free “Click and collect” services, allowing customers to reserve books online and collect them in-store.

Member comments

  1. Welcome to France, a country that has no idea about the retail sector, no idea about modern sales practices and no idea how to treat the consumer, in fact do they know what a consumer is.

  2. All the more reason to prefer ebooks, which I switched to early in the first lockdown when online sellers of all sorts were struggling with the logistics of meeting the sudden surge in demand. Besides – instant gratification.

  3. 1. This is something that will hit immigrants the most.
    2. I wonder how this will affect things like Amazon Prime and their collection lockers.

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FOOD & DRINK

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With rising inflation and cost of living, many people in France are desperate to keep their grocery bill low. Here are a few tips for how to avoid paying too much for food, drink and other everyday items.

7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

With inflation ticking upward, we’ve seen prices rise, especially for things like fresh vegetables, meat, pasta and cooking oil. Even though inflation is affecting food prices less than energy prices, buying groceries is still a huge part of every household’s budget, and unfortunately things are set to keep getting more pricey. 

We’ve put together a list of a few ways you can save a few euro at the supermarket:

Figure out if you qualify for any government benefits

First things first, it is worth seeing whether you can qualify for any existing government assistance, like CAF. On top of this, the French government has promised to set up a food voucher of €50 per month for low-income households after the parliamentary elections in June. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How to receive CAF payments in France

Compare store prices

Unfortunately, going to the closest supermarket is not always the most economical solution. If you prioritise grocery stores on the lower end of the price spectrum (and you’re willing to walk a bit further) you can save a lot of money. A helpful tool to find the cheapest store near you is the “Que Choisir” online interactive map (click here) that has listed 4,000 affordable stores in mainland France. 

Discount grocery stores, like Lidl and Aldi, are great options for saving a little extra at checkout. But if you must go to a pricier chain, like Monoprix for instance, try to buy Monoprix brand items – they’re typically a little less expensive than name brand foods.

Plan ahead to make the most out of discounts

If you go online ahead of heading to the grocery store, you can see which items will be discounted (“promotion”). If you cannot find this information online, you can always go to the store and ask for a catalogue of that week’s sales items.

Normally, this is something the cashier should have access to. With these discounts in mind, you can construct more affordable recipes. 

Franprix’s website, the ‘discounts’ page

Also, if you’re looking for cheaper recipes in general, you can always go to blogs and online recipe sites specialised in frugal shopping. If you want to try some French specific sites, you can test out “https://www.marmiton.org/” or “https://1repas1euro.com/recettes/

When it comes to discounts though, be careful about conditions involved (particularly when it comes to loyalty cards).

Sometimes these promotions promise a lot, but actually getting your money back might not be as simple as slashing a few cents at the checkout – you might need to send the coupon somewhere to get the discount, or wait for points to accumulate on your card.

That being said, you can optimise your discounts using several online sites that allow you to combine your loyalty cards (Fidme, Fidall, and Stocard). Other online coupon sites include Groupon, which allows you to make grouped purchases (therefore cheaper), and Coupon Network and Shopmium, which help you benefit from existing discounts. For cashback plans, you can look to websites such as Shopmium, iGraal, FidMarques and Quoty, which allow you to be reimbursed for a part of your expenses.

Make a list, set a budget… and stick to it

It might seem obvious, but when you go into the store, try to resist temptation. The best way to do this is to keep track (in real time) how much you are spending.

Some stores make this easier by allowing you to carry around a ‘self-scanner,’ this will help you to watch your bill go up as you shop. Another tip for this is to withdraw the exact amount of cash you expect to need for the essentials of your trip – obviously in order to do this, you’ll need to know the base prices of your essential items, so it will require a bit of planning ahead.

Buy (then freeze) soon-to-expire products

A consumer’s best friend and sure-fire way to decrease waste! Items coming up on their use-by-date tend to be discounted, so if you plan to purchase these foods and then immediately freeze them, you can significantly extend their shelf life.

Lots of supermarkets make this easier for you by dedicating entire shelves to “short shelf life” items that, according to Elodie Toustou, the head of the “Money” section of the magazine 60 Millions de consommateurs, opting for these foods will allow you to “pay three to four times less.”

Another great way to do this is to use applications like “Phénix” and “Too Good to Go.” These applications will allow you to set your geographic parameter and then click on food stores, restaurants, and bakeries in your area that are getting rid of “panniers” (sacks) of soon-to-be-expired foods. Lots of times these panniers cost only a couple euros.

The trick here is to plan ahead by arriving at the start of the allotted time (if the boulangerie on your corner is offering “Too Good To Go” bags from 11am to 2pm, try to get there as close to 11am as possible for the best items).

Re-consider markets and farmer’s stores

Contrary to popular belief, buying from farmers’ markets and grocers that sell predominantly local products actually can save you money, particularly if you are buying the seasonally relevant fruits and vegetables. Buying directly from a producer can also allow you to eliminate the margin taken by intermediaries. But be careful, this rule is not true all the time.

One way to benefit from cheaper prices at markets is to arrive as late as possible, when the merchants have started to pack up their products. This might allow you to benefit from lower prices or even free items, as they’ll be hoping to get rid of their remaining items.

Know what items are most impacted by inflation

Finally, as inflation continues to increase, try your best to monitor which foods are most impacted. If possible, it might be worth removing or limiting them from your diet – or looking for more affordable alternatives.

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