October 4, 2013
French lawmakers halt Amazon’s free deliveries
by Alex Shephard
Yesterday, in what France 24 described as a “rare show of unity,” French lawmakers from both the Socialist Party and the conservative Union for a Popular Movement passed a law which prevents Amazon from shipping already discounted books for free. The move comes months after Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti unveiled a series of multi-million-Euro programs intended to support struggling independent bookstores.
The French government first expressed interest in passing such a law back in June, after a number of independent booksellers complained that Amazon’s ability to ship books for free gave them an unfair competitive advantage.
French book prices are regulated by the Lang Law, which mandates that retailers can only discount new books by up to 5%. Yesterday, French lawmakers amended that law for the first time in 32 years. The Lang Law was initially passed to protect small bookstores from large chains.
The French government—and Filippetti in particular—have been increasingly vocal about Amazon’s business practices over the past several months. In June, Filippetti 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” and accused Amazon of being a “destroyer of bookshops.” Guillaume Husson, of the booksellers union, Syndicat de la librairie française, praised the new bill, saying “putting some balance back into the conditions of competition.”
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.