France Passes Anti-Amazon Law Eliminating Free Shipping; Amazon Responds With 0.01 Euro Shipping Fees
from the cher-dieu,-nous-avons-été-Columbia-Housed! dept
In a long-running legal battle that stretches back nearly a decade, Amazon has again emerged as the winner, despite both a court ruling and legislation against it.
In 2004, France's bookstores took the company to court over its discounts and free shipping, arguing that the online retailer was killing off local businesses. Three years later, the court emerged with a ruling that declared Amazon would have to start charging for shipping or face a 1,000 euro per day fine until it did. Amazon chose the latter option, opting to allow aggrieved merchants (and press covering the legal battle) to provide it with some very low-cost press.
Since that strategy didn't pay off, French retailers began pushing for a law aimed at all online retailers -- but most specifically Amazon -- that would make it illegal to offer free shipping to French book purchasers. This was on top of an existing law (put into force in 1981) that forbade anything more than a 5% discount on new titles. This new law forces Amazon to charge for shipping or face being banned from selling in France completely, along with stripping away the 5% discount.
No doubt this was seen as a huge victory for all the local stores that managed to weather the last 10 years of low-level, government-aided price fixing. It probably felt like one, too, right up until Amazon announced its new shipping rate.
France's "anti-Amazon" law prohibiting free shipping and discounts has now gone into effect, and Amazon quickly announced that it had conformed -- technically. Though it no longer ships books for free, it only charges 0.01 euro, conforming to the letter if not the spirit of the law (French Prime members still receive free book shipping).Enjoy your symbolic victory, French legislators. A whopping centime per shipment "containing books" (no matter how many items are in the cart) will no doubt restore the financial glory of local retailers, especially when unaffected items start flowing into France with both discounts and cheaper shipping.
That's the sort of "victory" that's often achieved by legislating "fairness." There are others ways local retailers could have handled this problem, but they chose the long, expensive and ultimately fruitless courtroom/legislation route and the end result is 1/100th of a Euro per shipment. And this won't be the end of it. Amazon is apparently eyeing an appeal with the EU Commission, which views the new law as anti-competitive.