France forces Amazon to charge 1p shipping

By Chris Dawson July 14, 2014 - 6:00 am

Amazon France Free ShippingAmazon have stuck two fingers up to the French government who just passed a law making it illegal to give a 5% discount on books and offer free shipping at the same time. In response Amazon are now charging for shipping…. at the rate of €0.01.

The French 5% maximum discount law for new books was originally introduced to stop large companies killing small independent book sellers. If Amazon offer a 5% discount and then tag on free carriage, it’s claimed that this adds up to more than 5% so the French government approved a law barring e-shops from shipping bargain books for free on Thursday.

Amazon swiftly responded saying “A new law forbids us to continue to offer you 5% discount and free shipping in France for your book orders. However, you are very likely to express your wish to have access to the widest offer, quickly delivered where you live, and at the best price. We think you’re right“.

Amazon added “we have set the shipping costs to the minimum permitted by law, or just 1 penny per order containing books and shipped by Amazon“.

Of course it’s unlikely the government will be happy with Amazon’s innovative strategy, but short of setting minimum legal delivery costs it’s unclear how they’ll continue their goal of protectionism. The EU are already likely to see the French Government’s maximum 5% book selling policy as anti-competitive and restrictive. Setting a minimum delivery cost would probably be a step too far for such a prominent member of the EU to get away with.

  • 7 years ago

    I don’t sell Books to France very often…All of my Books are printed in English. So the demand for my New Books will be relatively low in France, except perhaps to the expat market. However I must admit that I had missed this new French Law.

    To my way of thinking it is totally barmy. But as ebay Free Post is only for UK Orders it probably won’t cause me any real problems but it maybe that it will catch out some of my colleague Booksellers. So it should be highlighted and I thank Tamebay for bringing it to my attention.

  • 7 years ago

    Not sure it would apply to you as if sold on eBay UK it wouldn’t count as a French sale (I think?!)

    Might be different if you listed in eBay or Amazon France

    • 7 years ago

      Thank you for your assistance. There is another possible problem. What is the French definition of a New Book?

      New is generally taken to mean a Book that is pristine condition, that has never been read. Thus it could be a New Publication being sold at its stated price as printed on the book or relatively close to it. But there are Remainder Books(sometimes called Bargain Books). Some of these are printed specifically for the Remainder Market and are reprints of mass market books on subjects like cooking, antiques, gardening etc. They are printed often on cheap paper and with cheap binding but may have a fancy price on them that nobody intends to use and is only there for show. The other Remainders are New Books sold cheap by the Publisher to clear space in his warehouse.

      Now all these are NEW but are sold considerably less than 5% Discount on the price printed on the book(before somebody suggests snipping the price off the dust-jacket may I remind you that many prices are printed onto the hardback which is printed with the book cover). As a general example it could be a £20 Book being sold for anything between £ 8.99 and £12.99 (before anybody says that they could be cheaper than this or indeed that they could be more than this I accept that but in general most Remainders of a £20 will be in these parameters)

      Will the French Law affect exports from the UK to French addresses? Mind you as we do not have to fill in a customs slip for EU sales How would the French Authorities know what was in the parcel?

      But if they were to find out who would be technically breaking the French Law? Would it be me for posting it to France or the French Customer for ordering it from me in the first place?

    • 7 years ago

      I think you’re safe – the main thrust of the French argument for max 5% discount for online sales is that they value their bookshops (especially independent ones) as national institutions that need protection.

      Seeing a French bookshops would be unlikely to sell many English print books and if you sell from the UK (thus subject to UK and perhaps EU law, but definitely not French), then as a cross border purchase it’s pretty much out of their remit… unless the French would also like to challenge the cherished open trade borders which was one of the fundamental principles of EU membership.

    • 7 years ago

      Many Thanks for the information.

      I must admit that I have quite a lot of sympathy for the French position on the importance of Bookshops. Years ago I used to Wholesale to Bookshops across the South West. So fairly regularly I would go round with a van full of Books and stockcheck the Bookshops and then present the owner/manager with my suggestion of what he needed to order, and then deliver the books from the stock on the van.

      I spent several very happy years doing this and I got to know many of the Booksellers and to respect their in depth knowledge of books. Over the last few years since my health problems forced me to give up I know that many, probably the majority of those Bookshops have closed. So much so that many towns and indeed whole swathes of the country are now Bookshop Free Zones.

      So perhaps the French may be successful in safeguarding their Bookshops, although I doubt it. But I remember fondly travelling around the countryside. It used to take me between 3 days and up to 2 weeks to do a circuit and about 1,000 miles, although it could be much further.

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