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Amazon targeted as MPs back bookshops

Websites banned from combining free delivery plus cut-price books in move to protect small traders

FRANCE’S 3,000 independent booksellers have won a battle against online traders such as Amazon and Fnac.com after MPs voted unanimously to stop the web giants combining the legal 5% price discount with free delivery.

Book prices are fixed by law and sellers cannot cut prices by more than 5% but traditional High Street shops said that they could not compete with the discounts available through the web giants.

Amazon, Fnac.com and other major websites offer free delivery on quantities as low as a single book and booksellers said they could not offer match that on their own websites as it would mean selling at a loss as they had to include the costs of running their shops.

Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti has already attacked Amazon for its pricing, saying it “slashes prices to get a foothold in markets only to raise them once they have established a virtual monopoly".

MPs backed a motion from the leader of the UMP group in parliament, Christian Jacob, aimed at protecting booksellers from what they see as unfair online competition. The bill will now go to the Senate.

Amazon hit back, saying: “Any measure raising the price of books on the Internet will hurt the purchasing power of French people first and foremost, and discriminate against those who make purchases online.”

However, Ms Filippetti said during the debate: “Free shipping, let’s face it, is a dumping strategy. This law, far from preventing competition or blocking technological evolution, makes sure competition is fair between players in a fragile ecosystem.”

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