French attack Amazon free shipping for books

Amazon France Free ShippingThe French government want to stop Amazon offering free delivery, not to mention stopping them selling books at a discount. It’s all in the name of protectionism for the old fashioned high street book seller.

Currently French law prevents booksellers from offering more than a 5% discount on books. If Amazon offer a 5% discount and then tag on free carriage, it’s claimed that this adds up to more than 5% thus breaking the law.

Aurelie Filippetti, France’s minister of culture and communication was taking on French TV news outlet BFM TV last Friday and said “I’m in favor of ending the possibility of offering both free delivery and a 5% discount. We need a law, so we’re going to find a legislative window to introduce one“. Previously she had already said “Everyone has had enough of Amazon which, through dumping practices, smashes prices to penetrate markets only to then raise prices again once they are in a situation of quasi-monopoly

I don’t like the French 5% rule (I’m not sure where it leaves Waterstones “Buy 2 get 1 free” style deals which equates to a 33% discount!). However applying it to Amazon and then banning them from offering free carriage (especially to customers that have already paid for carriage with Amazon Prime) swings the pendulum too much in the opposite direction. It makes ecommerce more expensive that the high street as I’ll always have a carriage cost tacked on top of the purchase price.

Don’t think that this is the French government just attacking Amazon either, any law banning 5% discounts combined with free delivery will affect all book shops, both the pure play online book sellers and the high street bookshops that also sell online.

The original French 5% maximum discount law was originally introduced to stop large companies killing small independent book sellers. A change in the law to ban free delivery when combined with 5% book discounts is doubly dangerous as it could easily then be extended to cover more products.

I’d like to add that a week ago I travelled to Northern Ireland and whilst waiting for my plane I did what many thousands of travellers did and bought a book for full retail price – £12.99. I’d actually intended to buy a newspaper and the book was a impulse purchase – I could have purchased the same book for less than half price (£6.00) on Amazon.

It’s not the Internet which is killing the high street – it’s the high street partly not embracing the Internet and partly not making the high street and their shops an attractive place to go shopping. A new law banning free shipping combined with a discount won’t change that in the slightest.