France says Amazon must charge more for book deliveries

This bookstore in northwestern France was forced to close during the pandemic.
This bookstore in northwestern France was forced to close during the pandemic. A new law has been passed to protect companies like these from online retailers such as Amazon. (Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP)
The French government has pushed through a new law designed to help traditional bookstores in France compete with retail giants like Amazon. France has more independent book shops than most European countries but the lockdown has hit the sector badly.

Amazon and other e-commerce sites in France will have to charge more for book deliveries, according to a law voted Thursday aimed at helping traditional bookstores survive tough online competition.

The new rules target retail giants like Amazon, which charges the legal minimum of one cent for home book deliveries, leaving French publishers and stores unable to compete.

Laure Darcos, a senator sponsoring the law, accused Amazon of pursuing “a predatory business model” that had to be curbed.

In future, book deliveries “cannot be offered free of charge” the new law says, but must carry a “minimum charge” the level of which will be set by the French government.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot said the law, which was backed by the National Assembly in October before winning unanimous Senate approval on Thursday, will “promote fairness” in the book trade.

Amazon, which had been lobbying against the law, said the new measure would amputate the purchasing power of French consumers by an annual €250 million as delivery charges rise.

A spokesman said that 40 percent of Amazon’s book deliveries went to French areas with no bookshops which he said was the case for “90 percent of French municipalities”.

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France has 3,300 independent book shops, more than most other European countries, but the bricks-and-mortar outlets suffered during Covid lockdowns that kept customers away even as the online book market flourished.

A fixed price system for books, in force since 1981, protects them from discounting by online competitors.

Banned from cutting book prices directly, internet giants like Amazon instead made home deliveries practically free, a strategy the traditional outlets with already dwindling margins were unable to match.

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  1. It’s about time French shopkeepers stopped relying on the Government to keep them open. If they can’t complete in a marketplace, they should close. That applies to all, not just bookshops.

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