On Thursday, Italy’s anti-trust authority fined Amazon €1.13 billion for abusing its dominant position online and harming third-party competitors. The same day, a report said that Amazon’s David Naggar, head of its books division, met with French Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot on Aug. 25 in Paris to convince the government to not pass a proposed law that would require a minimum shipping price for books ordered online. Earlier legislation disallowed the free shipping of books, something that was enacted as an effort to curtail Amazon’s market advantages, so Amazon decided to offer shipping for one euro cent.
During the meeting, several people reported that Naggar offered to raise Amazon’s standard shipping price to as much as two euros, provided the government stopped passage of further legislation. Independent bookstores typically charge five to seven euros to ship books.
The 1981 Lang Law in France prohibits the discounting of new books, effectively fixing book prices, which means Amazon’s low shipping can make purchasing from the store more appealing to some buyers. (It must be noted that some booksellers in France will dog-ear a page in a new book to render it “used,” thus technically qualifying it to be sold at a discount).
The new legislation – which is expected to pass on December 19 – was proposed earlier this year in an effort to support independent stores. Last year, the French government reimbursed delivery fees charged by independent bookstores for books ordered online during the pandemic, a measure that helped a majority of stores stay in business at a time when they were locked down.
Reuters reports that more than 20% of the 435 million books sold in France in 2019 were bought online and the market share of France's 3,300 independent bookstores has been dropping, as more customers turn to Amazon.
In lobbying against the new legislation requiring a new minimum delivery charge, Amazon has claimed that the fee would hurt customers in rural parts of France, a number that accounts for 40% of orders, and would cost French consumers an additional 250 million euros annually. Amazon has said the law requiring a minimum shipping fee will add additional revenue to the company since it now currently ships at a near-zero price rate.
Despite these arguments, the French government appears ready to enact the new legislation later this month.