A French government senator has confirmed that e-commerce giants Amazon have been lobbying them for months to stop proposals protecting independent bookstores.
A new bill that aspires to level the playing field between online retailers and brick-and-mortar stores nationwide is set to pass on December 16.
Senator Laure Darcos said Amazon officials met with government figures earlier this year with the promise that they would change the way they sell books if new laws were passed.
If successful, this law will require all book retailers to charge customers a minimum delivery charge.
Right now, independents are disproportionately affected because they don’t have the infrastructure to charge fees as low as monoliths like Amazon.
Why is this bill so important for French bookstores?
Independent bookstores are at the heart of the French cultural economy.
But is under pressure from online retailers like Amazon, Fnac (FNAC.PA) and Leclerc, which have eroded their market share.
In 1981, a law was passed prohibiting price reductions on new books of more than 5%.
Only stores with enough cash can appear “discount worthy” by charging a low delivery fee instead.
Currently, Amazon only charges 1 cent per sale, making it the financially attractive option for many people. literary fanatics.
An average retailer is forced to charge up to €5-7 per delivery to cover costs.
According to this logic, any book on Amazon costs €5 to €7 cheaper by default.
Senator Dacros claims the company would have offered a new minimum delivery charge of €1.80 to €2.00 as a compromise – more than they currently pay, but still allowing them to be the cheapest.
She says it happened when Amazon Vice President for Kindle Books and Content David Naggar met with Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot on Aug. 25 in Paris.
“They were prepared to increase postage to €1.80-2.00 excluding premium subscription fees to align more closely with delivery charges for other goods on one condition: that we withdraw our invoice so that ‘it doesn’t benefit bookstores,’ explains Darcos.
The bill went through several stages in parliament, with the Macron government refusing to budge.
If passed, a decision on how much all retailers will actually have to pay will be made.
Experts expect it to be in the region of €2-5.
The higher end of the scale would place little difference in price between books you can buy online from independent retailers and those listed on Amazon.
Amazon declined to confirm the meeting took place
Darcos, who drafted the bill, was not present at the August 25 meeting but was briefed by an official in the room.
A second lawmaker briefed by someone with direct knowledge of the meeting confirmed that a proposal of around €2 had been made. A third lawmaker briefed on the meeting said the figure “rings true”.
Amazon declined to confirm that the meeting took place.
Bachelot’s office confirmed the meeting with Seattle-based Naggar took place, but declined to comment on the exchange.
Darcos confirms that the proposal was repeated to him in a separate meeting by Yohann Benard, Amazon’s public affairs director for Southern Europe.
Amazon says the legislation would make books more expensive for French consumers, especially those in rural areas far from any bookstores.
A spokesperson for the company said more than 40% of its book deliveries in France were to postcodes without bookstores. An increase in minimum shipping costs would cost French consumers around 250 million euros a year.
The law would only increase Amazon’s margins, company officials told the second lawmaker briefed on the Aug. 25 meeting, which requested anonymity because Amazon’s operations are a sensitive issue in his constituency.
The same lawmaker said Amazon had proposed the floor price for the period until April 2022, when France will elect its next president.