France sets delivery fees for online book sales to help stores compete with Amazon

France sets delivery fees for online book sales to help stores compete with Amazon

Written by Elizabeth Pinault and Geert de Klerk

PARIS (Reuters) – France plans to impose a minimum delivery fee of 3 euros ($2.93) for online book orders of less than 35 euros, the French government said on Friday, to level the playing field for independent bookstores struggling to compete against e-commerce giants. .

French law of 2014 already prohibits free book delivery, but Amazon (NASDAQ:) and other sellers like Fnac have circumvented this by charging a small fee of one cent per delivery. Local book stores usually charge up to €7 to ship a book.

Legislation was passed in December 2021 to plug a one-cent loophole through a minimum freight fee, but the law cannot come into force until the government decides the size of those fees.

β€œThis will adapt the book industry to the digital age by restoring the balance between large e-commerce platforms, which provide free delivery of books whatever the volume of demand, and bookstores that cannot match these delivery prices,” said the Ministries of Culture and Finance. In a joint statement.

They added that France will notify the European Commission of its plan and the minimum delivery fee will become effective six months after the approval of the EU grant.

The culture ministry said the three-euro fee – which includes taxes – could not be circumvented through customer loyalty programs or the joint purchase of books with other items.

It added that for orders over €35, online sellers can still suggest a one-cent delivery fee.

“The three-euro delivery fee … is not a deterrent to book buyers and a 35-euro threshold will favor bulk orders, which is beneficial from an environmental point of view,” the ministries said.

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Amazon had no comment on Friday, but a spokesperson referred to a statement it made during the lobbying stage of the legislation when the company said delivery charges would be a “major” inflation driver and would particularly affect readers in rural areas.

Bookstores in France have escaped Amazon’s rise thanks to a 1981 law banning price cuts on new books, but they say the US online giant’s ability to undermine it in shipping continues to distort the market.

The French library association SLF said in a statement on Friday that the three-euro fee is insufficient, as this means that bookstores will still sell at a loss when accelerating books to customers. The government called for a reduction in French post offices’ fees for shipping books through bookstores.

More than 20% of the 435 million books sold in France in 2019 were bought online, and the market share of 3,300 independent bookstores in France has been slowly declining due to competition from online retailers such as Amazon, Fnac and Leclerc.

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