Amazon ordered to end free delivery on books in France

Amazon.com may not offer free delivery on books in France, the high court in Versailles has ruled. The action, brought in January 2004 by the French Booksellers' Union (Syndicat de la librairie française), accused Amazon of offering illegal discounts on books -- and even of selling some books below cost. The court gave Amazon 10 days to start charging for the delivery of books, which should at least allow the company to maintain the offer through the end-of-year gift-giving season. After that, it must pay a fine of €1,000 ($1,470) per day that it continues to offer free delivery. It must also pay €100,000 in compensation to the booksellers' union.

Retail prices, particularly of books, are tightly regulated in France. Using "loss leaders," or selling products below cost to attract customers, is illegal. Other restrictions apply to books -- retailers must not offer discounts of more than 5 percent on the publisher's recommended price. Many independent booksellers choose to offer this discount in the form of a loyalty bonus based on previous purchases. Larger booksellers simply slash the sticker price of books. But the free delivery offered by Amazon exceeded the legal limit in the case of cheaper books, the union charged. The union said it was pleased with the court's ruling, which would help protect vulnerable small bookshops from predatory pricing practices.

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21 Comments

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that is stupid, especially since actually shipping has nothing to do with the book I order...
oh well... Glad I live in Germany.
I pay for amazon.fr shipping anyways should I need it one day (and I guess I will)

Glassed Silver:mbl

As long as Amazon sticks to the 5% rule, who cares if they offer free shipping? Those mom and pop stores ship the book form the shelf to your hand for free so Amazon shipping it to your door is really no different.

The union needs to go back to school and lean that the price of the book has nothing to do with the price of delivery. The price of the book is the price of the book. The price for delivery is entirely separate and has nothing to do with book prices.

Sounds to me like lack of competition is why the book shop prices are higher than Amazon. Here in Blighty Amazon is more expensive ... and then there is shipping costs which aren't free here.

Eh? Not sure where you shop, but Amazon prices are very competitive, and shipping costs are free if you spend over £15, which isn't that much at all.

Most books I buy aren't over £15 and so I generally end up with £3 shipping, or having to buy something I don't want ... I've found Amazon and the online retailers are usually pennies cheaper than the high street, its not worth the shipping cost.

I'm guessing that 1,000 euro per day is much less than the lure of free shipping brings in for Amazon. It may actually be better business to just stay in contempt of court indefinitely.

Oh so competition is no good either. Brilliant logic legislation to make everyone sell at the same price. You got all the answers, but no solutions.

There is a huge difference between a bad business model failing and going under and a good business model having to compete by starting off with loss.

Hmmm... If Amazon is allowed to sell items cheaper than local stores can legally sell the same books for, then there is a problem that ought to be faced.

Instead of allowing brick & mortar stores to sell at more flexible pricing, they went the other way.

Well small bookshops can't very well have 'loss leaders' since they wouldn't be able to afford it. I think it's good TBH. For example places like Tesco open up in places in the UK all the time and it seriously damages local independents because they can afford to sell at a loss.

No it's not good, I the consumer want the best price. What's next government (tax payers) subsidies to keep all the small business afloat? So much for good business models succeeding and bad ones going out of business.

cybershark said,
No it's not good, I the consumer want the best price. What's next government (tax payers) subsidies to keep all the small business afloat? So much for good business models succeeding and bad ones going out of business.

You're right! Giving the small business owner no chance to succeed by allowing the established players the ability to sell for less than you can directly buy it from the manufacturer for is a sure fire way to promote competition in a market.

Why not just let all of the close to monopoly owning businesses do the same. It will ensure that only the strong can compete much less break into a market. No wait lets just start setting prices below cost for everything and... no more small businesses... no more start ups... no more mom and pops...

jakez eb said,
You're right! Giving the small business owner no chance to succeed by allowing the established players the ability to sell for less than you can directly buy it from the manufacturer for is a sure fire way to promote competition in a market.

Why not just let all of the close to monopoly owning businesses do the same. It will ensure that only the strong can compete much less break into a market. No wait lets just start setting prices below cost for everything and... no more small businesses... no more start ups... no more mom and pops...

You demonstrate an inherent inability to read:
good business models succeeding and bad ones going out of business

jakez eb said,
...
Why not just let all of the close to monopoly owning businesses do the same. It will ensure that only the strong can compete much less break into a market. No wait lets just start setting prices below cost for everything and... no more small businesses... no more start ups... no more mom and pops...
Doesn't this have another name?...

Hmmm...

Oh, yeah! The Wal-mart Effect

jakez eb said,
You're right! Giving the small business owner no chance to succeed by allowing the established players the ability to sell for less than you can directly buy it from the manufacturer for is a sure fire way to promote competition in a market.

Why not just let all of the close to monopoly owning businesses do the same. It will ensure that only the strong can compete much less break into a market. No wait lets just start setting prices below cost for everything and... no more small businesses... no more start ups... no more mom and pops...


+1

Jakez: Sooo instead of doing what's best for the consumer (the Wal-Mar effect) you'd rather have a few small businesses around so everyone can offer higher prices? Get a grip.

Yeah, we need competition, yes, we need small businesses. If Wal-Mart (or Amazon) comes to town and does it better then you better find some way to promote yourself or your business is dead. Don't blame your competition for doing it better. In the end, it's all about winning the consumer's dollar. They choose where their money goes. It's the small business owner's job to win over that dollar.

Sooo.... Everyone in France pays higher prices because of these stupid regulations? I don't see the issue with loss leaders - why regulate this? If the retailer wants to lose money on a product, why is that an issue? Competition is a good thing. Anti-competitive laws like this only hurt the consumer, who is forced to pay higher prices.

The whole point is that loss leaders are used to take out the competition and then prices can be increased. Having Amazon destroy their business model is not good competition... it is simply destroying businesses. In a situation like this it is up to the regulatory authorities to decide whether any company has taken things too far and in this case they have clearly decided that has taken place. I don't necessarily agree with the ruling but I complete understand it.