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French court imposes record fine on Amazon

Several clauses in Internet giant's contracts with third-party vendors ruled to be unfair.

A French court has fined online retail giant Amazon a record €4million over unfair contractual clauses imposed on companies that use its platform to sell their products.

This fine imposed by the tribunal de commerce de Paris is, " the highest … imposed to date in this type of procedure", the Ministry of Economy and Finance said in a statement.

The court also ordered Amazon to change six contractual clauses within six months, or be hit with a €10,000 fine for each day the terms are not changed, according to the judgement published on the French tech news site, NextImpact.

"This is the first time that such a penalty payment - particularly important to guarantee the effectiveness of the sanction - has been decided by the Commercial Court at the request of the Minister," the Ministry said.

The lawsuit that led to the fine was filed in 2017 - and had followed a two-year investigation by French consumer fraud watchdog the Direction générale de la Concurrence, de la Consommation et de la Répression des fraudes (DGCCRF).

The complaint identified 11 disputed clauses in the contracts between third-party vendors and three entities: Amazon Payments Europe, Amazon Service Europe and Amazon France Services. The DGCCRF sought a fine of €9.5million.

Some of the clauses meant Amazon was able to change contract details at a moment’s notice, demand shorter delivery times, and block deliveries. Amazon also reserved the right to terminate the contract with immediate effect "for any reason and at any time, by simple notification".

"In France, Amazon is the leading e-commerce site for finished products for consumers with a turnover of more than €5billion in 2018 - three times higher than that of its largest competitor, Cdiscount," the judgment said.

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