While the DOJ gets closer to ending its pricing-fixing case against Apple, north of the border the Government of Quebec wants to make book price fixing legal. At the end of the first week of the Fixed Book Price hearings, the debate intensified as those against the policy had their say in front of Quebec’s Parliamentary Committee.
The Economic Institute of Montreal (IEDM), represented by economist Youri Chassin, accused the proposed law as nothing short of establishing a legal cartel. Pursuing his testimony, Chassin affirmed that drugstores and large mass merchandisers (Costco, Walmart) did in fact provide a wide-range of book selections (in reality, mass merchandisers generally sell 300 bestsellers per year compared to over 6,000 titles for a local bookstore). In its report, the IEDM said that we shouldn't judge readers' choices, that both Shakespeare and the 2013 Car Guide should be considered literature. In this way big box stores do provide a wide selection of books.
Thankfully for Chassin, many others opposed to the Fixed Book Price had valid, well-thought out arguments. The Retail Council of Canada, that represents small retailers countrywide, said that all independent retailers are feeling the stiff competition brought on by big box chains. According to Nathalie St-Pierre, economic data shows that consumers will be spending up to half of their household budgets in these outlets in the coming years. This trend, coupled with online shopping, is turning once loyal customers into savvy no holds barred bargain hunters. St-Pierre and the RCC do not believe that a simple fixed price for books will affect these consumer trends in any way. Rather, more durable solutions are needed that take into account the deep-seeded mutations operating in our economies.