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French attack Amazon free shipping for books

By Chris Dawson June 24, 2013 - 7:00 am

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.

  • 4 years ago

    I don’t really see a problem with this provided it is applied to all sellers online and offline. Being forced to charge shipping when online should be a non-issue (just drop prime) since shipping is a convenience people are willing to pay for. But how does this affect sales of used goods? It is easy to put a stop to this on Amazon but how would the law be applied on eBay whose catalog is dubious at best?

  • Glenn
    4 years ago

    As a Prime customer on Amazon I pay my annual fee in order to obtain Free Postage on all those products sold by Amazon to which Free Postage applies. I purchase numerous products from Amazon regularly and this includes 2 or more books every month. I really don’t see how Amazon could drop Books from the range of products within their Prime range of products.

    What would they do? Give existing Prime customers a refund?

  • 4 years ago

    Its actually a much more complicated question. The French 5% what does that refer to? Does it refer to the price printed on the book the Publishers RRP.

    However what about “Remaindered” Books. These are New Books that the Publisher has sold off cheap often to a Specialist Remainder Warehouse. The price printed on the book is still £19-99 or whatever but the Book is now available at a much lower price from such as “Bargain Book Shops” on the High Street or indeed from several Book Sellers on ebay and Amazon etc.

    They are still “New” in that they have never been sold or read by a customer. However often the Publisher shows them as being “Out of Print”(because usually he has sold all the stock to the Warehouse so as far as he is concerned it has gone).

    I have numerous Books listed which were remaindered and I am now selling Post & Packing Free for considerably less than a 5% Discount from the Publishers Price as printed on the Books.

    Also surely a French Domestic Law will have little or no validity anywhere else in the EU. Also what would happen if such a Law was challenged in the EU Courts? if for example UK Based Book Sellers were to be prosecuted by the French Authorities for selling Books in France at a price that equated to more than a 5% Discount?

    Then there is also dated Books. Many Books there is a different Volume each Year. The Classic is such as Janes Fighting Ships. The current volume is the best part of £1,000 retail(not got the exact price to hand). But it has been published every year since well before the First World War. New Copies can still be found occasionally of old editions. What price would be acceptable to the French Authorities on “Dated” Editions.

    Often when the 2014 Editions are published on most dated titles the 2013 Edition will be sold at a discount.

  • Mark
    4 years ago

    Will subsidised, but not free, shipping still be allowed. If so Amazon could just charge a cent for shipping.

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