Amazon says France's new bill is 'discrimination'

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France's new bill supporting independent bookstores against competition from web-based retailers introduces "discrimination against online consumers", said Amazon.

Companies like Amazon are restricted from offering combined 5% reductions and free deliveries under the new laws.

Amazon said the measures would "reduce French people's spending power".

The country's 3,000 independent bookshops had complained they can't compete with cut-price offers online.

The opposition right-wing party UMP proposed the bill, but it also has the support of the left.

Analysis

Some will question whether it's legal to regulate the price of books under European competition law; not to mention the fixing of a market to the detriment of one of its major players.

But, others will see it is a welcome extension of France's exception culturelle - those subsidies, quotas and tax breaks that support French films, television and music.

The view in parliament is that the invisible hand of the free market won't protect French language and culture on its own. The state must lend a hand. For 30 years the Lang Law has worked well.

But the on-line market is taking its toll - particularly on the small foreign book shops that are NOT protected by the Lang law.

The Parisian "Village Voice Bookshop" for one; it closed last year, the owner blaming the advent of the iPad. France can't hold back the popularity of the e-book, but it can - it thinks - regulate the online sale of the written equivalent.

It has been approved by the lower house and will now be sent to the Senate.

Payback?

The BBC's Paris correspondent Christian Fraser said the bill "might be seen as payback" for Amazon's practices of reporting European sales through a Luxembourg holding company, to take advantage of comparatively low corporate tax rates.

French Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti has criticised Amazon's practices in the past, particularly free deliveries or its policy of "tax optimisation."

Amazon insists the arrangement is legal under the European Union's single market rules.

In June, Ms Filippetti said: "Today, everyone has had enough of Amazon."

'Virtual monopoly?'

She added that the company, "slashes prices to get a foothold in markets only to raise them once they have established a virtual monopoly."

Terry Craven, bookseller at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris, said the new law was "very much" in line with other, similar policies.

"It doesn't seem to be discriminatory. Amazon has certain ways of looking at the free market which is simply not one that the French state takes, " he said.

'Good news'

Mr Craven added: "It is good news in so far as it is supporting the independent bookshops, which we greatly appreciate."

Britain has a third of the number of France's independent bookshops.

France is known for being proud of its local stores, considering them essential to bring culture to small villages.

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