France goes after Amazon’s books enterprise – POLITICO


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PARIS — Who remembers that Amazon was an internet bookshop? Effectively, France does.

In a contemporary swipe on the e-commerce large, French lawmakers will this week look at a draft regulation that might successfully cease Amazon from providing nearly free supply for ebook purchases — a significant promoting level for the net platform versus conventional bookstores.

The draft regulation, which comes from the Senate and has the backing of President Emmanuel Macron himself, goals to guard brick-and-mortar retailers from competitors with Amazon, which has left them reeling. It is the most recent in a collection of strikes designed to shore up native tradition towards overseas tech companies, which has included backing press publishers towards Google and Fb, and supporting TV broadcasters towards Netflix.

“The target is to scale back the distortion of competitors between on-line gamers who can provide ebook deliveries at one cent, and the others,” mentioned Géraldine Bannier in an interview. Bannier, an MP from Emmanuel Macron’s allied celebration MoDem, is in control of the invoice within the decrease home.

The textual content, which will likely be reviewed by the Nationwide Meeting’s tradition committee on Wednesday, is slated to require a minimal price for ebook deliveries. In different phrases, Amazon’s promise of nearly free delivery for books would now not be authorized in France.

The U.S. e-commerce large is against the brand new guidelines, in accordance with a number of French officers, who mentioned the agency was lobbying towards them.

Amazon declined to remark for this text.

French politicians have lengthy defended unbiased bookstores towards the U.S. tech firm — as soon as described by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo as “the dying of bookshops” — and a few have even referred to as for Amazon boycotts.

Between 2006 and 2019, the market share of France’s 3,300 unbiased bookshops has reportedly decreased by virtually 3 proportion factors due to the competitors of on-line retailers corresponding to Amazon and Fnac. In the course of the first coronavirus lockdown, bookshops additionally needed to shut — however have been labeled “important companies” in early 2021 and allowed to stay open. In 2020, one out of 5 bookshops misplaced greater than 10 p.c of revenues in contrast with 2019.

France is not any stranger to regulation of the ebook sector.

Within the early Nineteen Eighties, the nation handed a regulation on a “single ebook value,” whereby publishers must resolve on costs. Distributors then set their very own in a really restricted window between 95 and one hundred pc of the value dictated by the publishers.

On high of this rule, free deliveries are technically not allowed. Policymakers are actually underneath the impression that the wide selection of supply charges — from €0.01 to as much as €7 relying on the distributor — is defeating the regulation’s objective of getting just one value for books.

The brand new invoice would require retailers to cost for delivery books at a minimal value that will likely be set by the financial and tradition ministries, based mostly on a proposal by the telecom and posts regulator Arcep. It might additionally require on-line platforms to distinguish extra clearly between new books from second-hand books.

Excessive-level assist

The textual content was initially drafted by Laure Darcos, a senator from the conservative Les Républicains celebration, who beforehand labored for the ebook publishing trade. “It wasn’t a straightforward alternative, as a result of we make customers pay once more,” she mentioned in an interview.

Darcos’ draft laws has acquired one crucial backer: Emmanuel Macron, who earlier than the summer time break mentioned there was a contest subject between multinationals and unbiased ebook shops.

It’s no secret that the invoice is focused largely — if not solely — at Amazon, who constructed its world empire on low cost and quick supply. 

“It’s a well-known proven fact that this operator’s technique is to sacrifice its profitability so as to conquer the market by way of aggressive pricing insurance policies. It compensates its losses by providing different providers, which quantities to creating the ebook a loss chief,” Tradition Minister Roselyne Bachelot mentioned in June, throughout debates within the Senate, including that the invoice aimed toward “immediately contradicting this technique.”

And Amazon has unsurprisingly pushed again towards the brand new guidelines.

“Amazon is afraid that it’ll set a precedent. They need to be monopolistic on the net gross sales of ebook — I press the place it hurts,” Darcos mentioned.

The e-commerce large has argued that greater supply charges would hurt rural areas with little entry to bodily bookshops, in accordance with a number of individuals briefed on the corporate’s arguments. The U.S. tech large additionally argued they might be the one ones benefitting from greater charges as a result of that might imply extra margins, one of many individuals mentioned. (It is not unusual for tech multinationals to try to persuade policymakers that regulation can be counter-productive as a result of it will truly profit them.)

The brand new guidelines are backed by the Syndicate of French bookshops, but in addition by Amazon rivals corresponding to Fnac and Leclerc, as retailers are compelled to decrease supply charges and gnaw on their very own margins to compete with the deep-pocketed U.S. tech large.

The invoice will go to the Nationwide Meeting’s plenary session in early October.

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