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French Fine Amazon For Free Shipping

kdawson posted more than 6 years ago | from the that's-just-fine dept.

Books 578

strech writes "Ars Technica reports that France is fining Amazon for offering free shipping on some orders. A French high court ruled in December that the practice violated a law preventing discounting the price of a book more than 5% off of the publisher's recommended price. Amazon has decided to pay the fine, rather than drop free shipping. The fine currently stands at €1,000 per day but is automatically reconsidered after 30 days, after which it could be raised dramatically."

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578 comments

Discounting the price of a book? (4, Insightful)

j.sanchez1 (1030764) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092122)

How the hell does giving free shipping mean that the price of the book is discounted? The book is $7.99 or whatever regardless of the price of shipping, free or not.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092234)

It's France; whining is what they do best.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092784)

Yes, France does have some great whines.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (0, Flamebait)

kestasjk (933987) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092822)

It's France; whining is what they do best.
Yes over there they all smell, wear berets, smoke hand-rolled cigarettes, eat snails and frog's legs and play the accordion outside of a cafe.

Sarcasm over: Who is whining here?
The judge whining over free shipping? I doubt the judge represents the views of the French people; you think they're going to like having free shipping taken from them?
The French people whining over the judge's bad decision? Aren't we doing the same thing now?

I've always wondered why Americans (I assume you're American) are so anti-French, especially when they helped you get independence from Britain etc, right? (Correct my poor history knowledge)

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (5, Insightful)

dpete4552 (310481) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092246)

Because the court decided the price of the book was the total cost to the customer after the book cost itself AND ground shipping were taken into account. So if the book is $7.99 and ground shipping is $2, then the total cost to the customer is $9.99. By Amazon not charging the customer that $2 they have, in the eyes of the court, discounted the book by 20%.

IMO, it sounds like the court went out of their way to find a definition that would allow them to bully an American company in order to protect French book sellers.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (4, Insightful)

j.sanchez1 (1030764) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092266)

But TFA says "list price".

That law forbids booksellers from offering discounts of more than 5 percent off the list price, and Amazon was found to be exceeding that discount when the free shipping was factored in.

Wouldn't that mean the cover price on the book itself? I don't see how shipping and/or tax would be included in that.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092356)

> Wouldn't that mean the cover price on the book itself? I don't see how shipping and/or tax would be included in that.

I think they just considered the free shipping (since it is only on certain items) as a rebate on the book...

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1, Informative)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092496)

I think they factored the shipping fee into the list price.

TANSTAAFL, shipping costs money, no miracles here, especially that Amazon is not a mailing company, so it's not like they could ship it on their own, and they are no charity to donate the service completely free of charge.

The customer gets to pay for the shipping, that's one thing that is certain. Now which part of the price the shipping comes from is the question. Amazon could discount a $8 book by $2, then add $2 of their real costs for shipping and the customer pays $8 for the service - but that would be illegal. So they sell the book at $8, no discount, and add 'free shipping', which nets the customer $8 and suddenly is legal? Maybe by some very twisted lawyer logic, but not by common sense. $2 less of what you pay for the service is still the same $2 for you as a customer, no matter if it goes off the base price or off shipping fee.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092652)

You do know that the brick and mortar bookstore had to pay to have the book shipped to their store, don't you? You don't pay for shipping there. Yes, the price to ship the book is higher than the price of shipping the same book to a bookstore (along with hundreds of other books), but it still costs money. Oh, BTW, most brick and mortar bookstores get most of their books from distributors not directly from publishers (I used to be the book buyer for a large independent bookstore), which means that brick and mortar bookstores are at the same place in the shipping chain as the Amazon customer.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1)

gardyloo (512791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092360)

Poor reporting? No, wait: we know that journalistas never get their factoids incorrect, or promulgate ambuggerous, non-cromulent verbiosity.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092420)

I think you are missing the point. This is France we are talking about - they aren't interested in what is right or logical, only protecting their book sellers.

In many other countries, the book sellers would be considered to be price fixing and it would be illegal. In France it's illegal not to price fix. Go figure.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (4, Insightful)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092534)

Forgive me for sounding American, But that sounds like a stupid law to me...
Amazon.com already bought the books so the publisher already has their money and so would the authors. Whatever price they decide to sell them should be up to Amizon. If they want to cut their profits and leave money on the table it is up to them to make that choice. I would guess the law was passed to help the Mom and Pop err um. Mummaire and Pappaire (Yes it is most likely spelt wrong and problably only used in Quebec French) Shops to insure they can compeat with the big guys. But shouldn't the restriction occure between the publisher and retailer to insure that the large company cannot buy bulk orders at a higher discount forcing the company to sell the books at simular prices.

There are pleanty of non-evil reasons to sell books at a discount, for example some time books are updated or are not popular so they will sell them heaviliy discounted to get them off the inventory. (selling at a loss or break even pricing) Because of Bulk Shipping I bet Amazon Get good rates for shipping. So where it would cost $2 to ship a book it will only cost Amazon $0.50. Thus making this law even more flawed.

As I said I am sorry if I sound to American, but I tend to beleave in a free market echonomy, with its ups and downs.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1)

Naerymdan (870497) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092718)

Just what is "Mummaire and Pappaire" supposed to mean? If you mean "Mom and Dad", it would be "Maman et Papa". Or, in the sense of "Crabby old woman and crabby old man", it would be "Mémère et Pépère".

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092780)

> If they want to cut their profits and leave money on the table it is up to them to make that choice.

But doing this usually means that they try to break the market, usually to try to destroy competition.
I do not know which kind of market you think of, but the kinds I know do not work without competition, and thus there are laws against destroying competition by using unfair advantages (like having a lot of cash to waste).

> I tend to beleave in a free market echonomy

That is a rather general statement, and most people who say things like this haven't thought about the details.
They are only thinking of one specific case where they think it's great, but usually you find something where they don't want a free market after all.
Many already don't want a free market when it comes to such still rather ordinary stuff like organs, but forbidding bribes might as well be considered hindering a completely free market...

Does this apply to local bookstores? (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092382)

"Because the court decided the price of the book was the total cost to the customer after the book cost itself AND ground shipping were taken into account. So if the book is $7.99 and ground shipping is $2, then the total cost to the customer is $9.99. By Amazon not charging the customer that $2 they have, in the eyes of the court, discounted the book by 20%."

So are they going to start fining bookstores for not charging shipping? After all, if the "consumer price" is $9.99, buying for $7.99 at the local bookstore is a deep discount.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (3, Informative)

teslar (706653) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092390)

Got any source for that? Cause as far as I can tell, you just made that up and it's bullshit (and not +5 Insightful, mods - way to check a claim before modding).
The real beef [01net.com] (link in French, sorry) the Syndicat de la librairie française has with Amazon (and other online sellers) is twofold. By not charging delivery costs (In France and I think Germany, there is no minimum order for free delivery costs if you only buy books), they are
  1. selling at a loss (vente à perte)
  2. associating a free service with the sale (vente à prime)

Both of which are forbidden under French law (loi Lang). Amazon simply argues, that delivery merely an extension of the sale contract, aimed at actually bringing the goods to the customer, but apparently, the courts do not agree.

Actually, the real beef... (5, Insightful)

raehl (609729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092556)

Is that France has a pile of protectionist laws screwing up their economy and this is just one of them.

Amazon isn't selling at a loss. They're just selling at a price that some stores don't want to compete with. And French law, instead of giving the consumer the right to buy where they can get something the cheapest, instead forces the consumer to pay more for a product than they need to.

You'd think it was pretty silly if the US had a federal law that said that you could only sell a product for no less than 5% of MSRP, wouldn't you? And you'd think it was ESPECIALLY silly if that law only applied to particular products?

Well, except agriculture, but there we just write checks to producers.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (2, Insightful)

securityfolk (906041) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092608)

Ok, then, easy solution is this... Charge the French and Germans for shipping, but don't charge the other countries. Awesome - way to represent your people, France.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092610)

Bullshit. Amazon doesn't sell at a loss. It's more socialist garbage, people trying to figure out how to use government to screw a large corporation. Good luck with that, it'll do wonders for your economy.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092672)

2) I might give them, but it's pretty iffy. 1) I don't buy -- even at the discounts Amazon gives on books, rarely do they ever sell them at a loss. If that's the case, then not charging shipping doesn't create a loss. This is a case of a government trying to manipulate the definitions to fit their needs, in this case: money.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (4, Insightful)

p0tat03 (985078) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092706)

Documentation from Amazon will easily prove claim #1 to be false (there's no way they're selling at a loss), and IMHO only someone out to get the company would claim #2, since shipping is OBVIOUSLY an ancillary service that adds no value to the product besides what consumers ALREADY expect from the sales contract. This is a good example of gross judicial abuse, takes the law where it was never meant to be applied, and amounts to legislating via judiciary.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1)

wren337 (182018) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092798)


What I think is interesting though, is that the seller in the brick-and-morter store is also offering free shipping. He has taken the books from the wholesaler to his warehouse, broken up the pallets and delivered them to his stores, and kept his stores warm and well lit, at no additional cost to the buyer above the price of the book. In other words the MSRP of the book includes enough profit to completely cover the cost of his distribution channel.

When Amazon ships the book from a central warehouse to the buyer direct, that end-to-end channel probably has a lower cost than the distribution cost the physical store is "giving away".

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (2, Informative)

Telvin_3d (855514) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092514)

Actually, I think the focus on the free shipping is a kind of red herring. The problem is with the final price to the consumer. Take your example of a book that has a list price of $9.99. If Amazon is selling it for $7.49 + standard $2.00 shipping the final price is $9.49, or a 5% discount no problem with that. The courts are counting the shipping charge as part of the price of the book because it is. If you go to a normal book store and buy a book, the price of the shipping is being absorbed there, it is just less transparent.

So, when Amazon drops the shipping, the price is now $7.49. That is way above the 5%. After all, if a brick and mortar store discounted the price of their shipping from all their books, all you would see is the sale price and they would get dinged by the law too. The only difference with the Amazon thing is that they are saying what part of the balance sheet the sale goes under.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092736)

The shipping fee is not part of the price of the book. It is a surcharge on top of the book price for an additional service. What happens if i order two books? Which one gets the "plus shipping" tacked on to it? How about three? Or Four? All in the same box, all for the same price shipping. Do we average it? Assign it all to one book? Assign it to 3 of 5? How about we just stop spouting absolutely inane stuff like "shipping is part of the price". This doesn't scale at all because it is based on a faulty premise. Cost of product != Cost of business. If anything Amazon should be dinged for offering free shipping, which is significantly below their cost, but a COMPLETELY seperate service.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (2, Insightful)

oliderid (710055) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092528)

It is even more nasty than that. Books are sold under a fixed retail price in France as far as I know. Practically it means that books "must" cost the same in your supermarket and in your local bookseller. Such a law is aimed at protection small booksellers. (it doesn't mean that I share this point of view...).

Honestly I don't think they want to bully american companies...This is just an company facing another absurd/bureaucratic european law.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (0)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092830)

Personally I think a little protectionism might be in order. Not against websites (there's a justification for lower prices when you buy online), but against supermarkets - they have a tendency to drop the price of a given week's big book, DVD, game etc. down to cost or below to lure people into the store where they will then do their regular shop. Bookstores etc. then can't lure people into their stores to buy the given week's big book, plus a couple of other books with any luck, and go out of business. There's a worrying trend towards centralising your entire week's purchasing into a single store.

At the end of the day, though, this instance is just brick-and-mortar stores crying foul against online stores, which I'm sure they wish they had a legal basis for more often, and which isn't all that reasonable.

At first... (2, Interesting)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092600)

I completely agreed with your sentiment, however, on thinking about it for a minute, from a strictly accounting point of the view the French courts are completely correct.

The cost of the book to you is:

Cost of the Book + Cost of Shipping

Now the shipping is outside of Amazon's control because it goes through a third party (i.e. the postal service) and so they cannot offer free shipping (only the postal service can do that), but what they can do is reduce the cost of the book in order to offset the cost of the shipping - in which case the court is absolutely correct. The book is being sold at a discount - and if that's more than 5%, they're breaking the law.

Now on the other hand: for "The French Bookseller's Union" methinks read bunch of lazy bastards who don't want anyone ripping into their cushy cartel.

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092488)

More to the point, why should book sellers in France not be able to sell the book for whatever price they want?

Re:Discounting the price of a book? (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092728)

This is a new French philosophy, the consumer anti-protection laws. They just pass laws now to make consumers pay more for stuff and prevent them from getting discounts.

What possible reason (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092134)

What possible reason could France have for this law, besides being successfully bought by big business?

Quite sad really.

Re:What possible reason (4, Interesting)

cnettel (836611) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092176)

What possible reason could France have for this law, besides being successfully bought by big business?

Quite sad really.
The notion that it helps small retailers, so business, but not necessarily big business. The publishers and the retail sector can gain from it, while those interested to compete on price and the general public do not, at least not related to their book purchases.

Re:What possible reason (5, Interesting)

0123456789 (467085) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092358)

We had a similar law in the UK until about 10 years ago. Prior to it being repealed, I thought it was absurdly anachronistic. However, since it was repealed, supermarkets have been stocking, and massively discounting, high-profile books (Harry Potter and the like). The downside is that it's become almost impossible to find a small, independent bookshop, and even the large chains are struggling. In response, the large chains are cutting the breadth of their stock, instead stocking more of the high profile titles, and similarly discounting them. The net effect on the consumer? You can get Harry Potter or 2 dozen other titles for £2, but you're screwed if you want something else. I think it's fair to say that most /. readers want to buy books other than John Grisham, Harry Potter, and celeb biography du jour.


Thankfully, Amazon fills the gap. However, browsing a decent, well-stocked book store is a far more pleasant experience than browsing Amazon.

Re:What possible reason (4, Insightful)

elefantstn (195873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092432)

I'm not sure how to take seriously someone who says in 2008 that you're screwed if you want a non-bestselling book. We live in a time of unprecedented availability of books (and music, and movies, etc.). Truly screwed was when you went to the cozy little independent bookshop and they didn't have your book. Then you backordered it for six weeks.

This is paradise for book-buying, regardless of whatever romanticized ideal of the independent bookseller you cling to.

Re:What possible reason (4, Insightful)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092836)

Amazon et. al are great when you know exactly what you are looking for. But(way back when anyway) small independent bookstores are(were?) usually run by book nuts who really got a chance to know you and could be counted on to discuss books you have read/like/might like. Amazon's suggestion software is good, but not a perfect replacement. Not to mention some people enjoy the atmosphere of just wandering through rows and rows of books looking for a treasure.

It's still probably not worth erecting such stubborn laws to protect, but there is something to be said about the atmosphere of a small book store.

Re:What possible reason (2, Interesting)

hopeless case (49791) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092516)

"The net effect on the consumer? You can get Harry Potter or 2 dozen other titles for £2, but you're screwed if you want something else. I think it's fair to say that most /. readers want to buy books other than John Grisham, Harry Potter, and celeb biography du jour."

What about the net effect on the consumer of the government setting prices? How can Europeans give in so easily to the passage of so many rob-peter-to-pay-paul laws and still have functioning economies? I don't doubt that they have some way of restraining the effect of these laws and that they have powerful economies, but it must take some other form than making classic liberal arguments to prevent their passage. What form? Does anyone know?

Anyway, back to the argument at hand, how exactly am I screwed if I want to buy a wider range of books, absent this law? Living in the U.S. (without such a law), I have no problem buying a wide range of books cheaply.

Re:What possible reason (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092616)

The long tail can only survive on the Internet - or if you target customers who aren't price sensitive and thus will support your otherwise failed specialist shop.

Why on earth would I want to browse books in a store instead of search'n'click on the 'net?

Re:What possible reason (1)

jrumney (197329) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092788)

That sort of blandization of the high street has happened across the board in the UK, not just with books. I don't know what people without internet access do these days when they want something that isn't a lowest common denominator fly off the shelves product.

Re:What possible reason (1)

lottameez (816335) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092204)

I suspect the thinking is because excessive discounting could be used to drive out competitors that couldn't go that low without going out of business. Once small helpless competitors are driven out, then the anti-competitive big bad business can set their prices to whatever they want. I wonder if there is also a law saying that they can't sell it for more than 5% of the publishers marked price? And then you'd need a law for the publisher... and then you'd need a law for the paper producers... and another law for the ink producers...

Re:What possible reason (1)

hoppy (21392) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092208)

The idea is to protect the small bookstores. By having the same price everywhere small bookstore can compete against big business and offer diversity in book offer and not only the 200 most sold books.

It does not work so well.

Re:What possible reason (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092400)

"The idea is to protect the small bookstores. By having the same price everywhere small bookstore can compete against big business and offer diversity in book offer and not only the 200 most sold books."

Which doesn't make sense. Let the big chains stock the big names at no profit. Let the small guy charge full price for the low-volume titles that the big chains can't carry because, even at full price, there's not enough volume. Everyone (including the consumer) wins.

Find a niche and fill it. Otherwise, you don't have a "right" to succeed, or be propped up by artificial pricing.

Re:What possible reason (2, Interesting)

Plunky (929104) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092644)

Which doesn't make sense. Let the big chains stock the big names at no profit. Let the small guy charge full price for the low-volume titles that the big chains can't carry because, even at full price, there's not enough volume. Everyone (including the consumer) wins.
except it doesn't work that way. the megastores have unreasonable buying power and use it wilfuly to beat down the price they pay for goods, with the result that they can undercut everybody else and still make bigger profits. since they only sell high volume items they don't care but it is the profit on high volume items that allows booksellers to keep other stock on the shelves for long periods of time and makes a good bookshop. so, the good bookshops close and the only winners are the investment banks who own shares in the megastores.

the french are against that.

Re:What possible reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092454)

If it does not work so well, then just change the law, don't fine Amazon, and let's see what happens.

(Or perhaps, you're french and you meant that I does actually work well ?)

Re:What possible reason (1)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092544)

I don't see why that's a problem; the big book stores here have a much better selection than the local places. Unfortunately because I live in a small city, even their selection sucks... but the same chain store near Philly had an unbelievable selection of books.

Re:What possible reason (5, Interesting)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092218)

What possible reason could France have for this law, besides being successfully bought by big business?

I understand that the law was passed to prevent supermarkets from putting book sellers out of business by selling the most popular books at knock-down prices (the theory being that if all books are sold by the supermarkets rather than proper book stores you would only be able to buy the most profitable books).

Re:What possible reason (2, Informative)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092724)

(the theory being that if all books are sold by the supermarkets rather than proper book stores you would only be able to buy the most profitable books).
As someone who did all the perfunctory research into starting a bookstore, I can certainly tell you this is true.

Look, in retail, floor space == $$$$. In the U.S. (and probably most of the rest of world albeit with different units), retail space is leased per square foot per month. The more bookshelves you have, the more square footage you need to house them all. The more books you have, the more bookshelves you'll need.

Carrying a very, very broad and deep selection of books means that you'll have a lot of books that will sit on the shelf collecting dust until the right buyer comes along. Something like Harry Potter or the latest John Grisham or Stephen King novel will fly off the bookshelves quite quickly -- a book on the esoteric practices of Zoroastrianism will move much, much slower.

If you only dedicate floor space to the best sellers, you can sell them at deep discounts because you'll make it up on volume.

For the rest -- well, a set of bookshelves and associated space required that takes up 10 ft^2 in a $30/sq. ft. facility ends up costing $300 a month. In order to make money, you need to sell more than $300 worth of books from that shelf per month. That doesn't seem like much, but if you have a bunch of odd books waiting for the right buyer and sell only 1 or 2 a week, you didn't make it.

That's reality for the small independent bookseller.

Re:What possible reason (1)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092804)

Carrying a very, very broad and deep selection of books means that you'll have a lot of books that will sit on the shelf collecting dust until the right buyer comes along.

This isn't just about expensive shelf space though - if you want a niche book you can ask the bookstore to order it for you, but I bet you'd get nowhere asking a supermarket to do the same (bear in mind this law predates the likes of Amazon).

Re:What possible reason (3, Informative)

clickety6 (141178) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092262)

A lot of countries have or had the law - like the Net Book Agreement in the UK. It helped keep the average cost of book lower and ensured that a wider range and variety of books got published. It was abolished in the UK some years back, since when a lot of smaller book shops disappeared and it has gotten harder and harder to find shops with a wide range of books rather than those just pushing the most recent best sellers at discounted prices.

Germany has a similar system in place but is also facing problems because the Swiss have decided to allow discounted German books.

So the law gave readers a wider range of books and, on the whole, helped keep prices lower.

Here's one reason (2, Interesting)

Foolicious (895952) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092318)

Yes. The law was enacted in 1981 to prevent the market from being flooded with only cheap, marked-down books (think of those strip mall "Discount Books" places, if you live in the US), and, as I'm sure you can guess, to keep competition, ummm, competitive. The law has been brought before the mighty French court before, both times being upheld, probably because it's even in its application; it's not like it applies to some sellers and not others. It's like a price control. This was all brought to light because the "French Bookseller's Union" sued Amazon to try and stop the free shipping and the court (in December) interpreted that as part of the book price. Other countries have similar laws actually, but France is the only one that has applied it to the shipping -- when shipping to France.

By refusing to comply and instead paying the fine each day, Amazon is increasing the chance of the fine being raised after the 30 days. Also, it's funny we're talking about the government being bought by big business...and yet, isn't Amazon big business? Touché!

Re:Here's one reason (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092774)

The French law was not bought by big business... it was bought by the unions which is 10 times worse for the economy and average person.

Fist (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092158)

surrender post.

Have any French companies been fined for this? (1)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092160)

Stupid laws or Gallic protectionism?

Re:Have any French companies been fined for this? (1)

phobos13013 (813040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092282)

FTA (buried in a link) it states there was precedence for this when the European Amazon-like company Alapage [nytimes.com] received the same fine. So unless Amazon wants to keep subsidizing peoples shipping TWICE, they may want to go ahead and charge a reduced shipping fee, say 1.99EU or a buck off the other guy, wonder if the French government would fine them for that one?

Re:Have any French companies been fined for this? (1)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092470)

Stupid laws or Gallic protectionism?

It appears you are trying to create a false dichotomy. Cancel or Allow?

Or, to put it more obviously, maybe this law isn't stupid, and maybe this has nothing to do with national protectionism but concurrence protection (yes, we don't quite like the United States' "Only the strong survive" economic model, for that model prioritises the interests of a few over the general interest).

Re:Have any French companies been fined for this? (1)

Malevolent Tester (1201209) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092562)

for that model prioritises the interests of a few over the general interest

The general interest being a euphemism for the public sector?

Ob (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092178)

By the time you've read TFA, they'll have probably surrendered.

Captcha: steaming (like a fine mug of frosty piss)

European Mindset? (5, Interesting)

phobos13013 (813040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092226)

I'm trying hard to understand this. Looking at European governmental action, typically these governments act to protect the consumer. I do not immediately see how forcing a higher price on a commodity can be good for the consumer. But then I remember Wal-Mart; look at Wal-Mart by offering lower prices for so many years has hurt local economies, local goods providers who cannot compete with volume pricing... which is exactly what Amazon does as well. They can take a hit on shipping because they probably have cut rate contracts with delivery companies anyway that local French sellers cannot compete with! So, all I can think is that the French government has bothered to look beyond the obvious, oh we save them 8EU so we are obviously better for the consumer and realized that there is more to a healthy economy and healthy society than saving someone a buck or two...

Re:European Mindset? (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092348)

"look at Wal-Mart by offering lower prices for so many years has hurt local economies,"

How? Unlike the classic monopolist, Wal-Mart DOESN'T increase prices when they have driven out the competition. How does being able to get goods at a lower price hurt a local economy?

Re:European Mindset? (1)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092414)

Well, the well-being of local economies includes the well-being of local providers. Wal-mart ends up being the analogue of out-sourcing for supermarkets. And we all know how happy out-sourcing makes people...

Re:European Mindset? (1)

phobos13013 (813040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092490)

How? Well, I won't reinvent the wheel here, this has been argued and shown to be true many times.

But it is because it encourages regions enslaved to Wal-Mart (especially low-density, low-population regions) to be consumers not entrepreneurs. Great, you force them to only buy from you by offering a low price, but this just encourages lazy, weak-willed individuals who will lose community-minded aspects of goodwill and local bartering modes and instead create a community AROUND the mass consumerism of a international conglomerate that doesn't give a shit about the consumer and only sees them as an object to suck money out of. That monopoly is no where near as scaled, benevolent a monopoly as the local retailer you are suggesting they would be.

Re:European Mindset? (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092630)

What's wrong with enslaving lazy people?

They get to be lazy and we get their cash. Win-win.

Re:European Mindset? (3, Interesting)

Bud Dickman (1131973) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092350)

Why legislate choices for the community to make? If people want to shop at Walmart and destroy their locally-owned businesses - isn't that their right in a free and open society?

Because smarter people pick up the tab. (4, Insightful)

FatSean (18753) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092510)

When the retards who only see the cost of their purchase in dollars destroy their local economy, they will go crying to goverment for help. Those of us who knew better will have to bail them out. Better to prevent the fools from dragging us all down. This is the same logic used for gun control, drug laws, seatbelt laws, child protection laws, etc...

Re:European Mindset? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092352)

On this flip side, this attitude encourages collusion and price fixing across publishers as they know they will get quite close to the price they set, regardless of actual market desires.

Loss leaders (2, Interesting)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092372)

Wal-mart and other big stores can cut prices dramatically not only from "cutting deals," but from simply offering certain items as what is called a "loss leader."

For instance, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and other big stores often get their music CDs for the same price that other, dedicated music stores would pay (say, for example, $10) but they actually price the CD for less than they paid for it (say $9) and intentionally lose money on the purchase. The idea of course is that a customer who comes in to buy that CD will pick up some other things that will make up the difference.

In theory if people walked into Best Buy and bought nothing but music CDs the company would hemorrhage money, but in practice of course their plan works out perfectly while the smaller music shops can't possibly compete on fair ground. (One owner of a local music shop near me routinely sends his employees to the big stores to buy stock for his shelves, because it's a better deal than he can get from his supplier. How screwed up is that?)

Re:Loss leaders (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092732)

In theory if people walked into Best Buy and bought nothing but music CDs the company would hemorrhage money, but in practice of course their plan works out perfectly while the smaller music shops can't possibly compete on fair ground. (One owner of a local music shop near me routinely sends his employees to the big stores to buy stock for his shelves, because it's a better deal than he can get from his supplier. How screwed up is that?)

Not screwed up at all. That's economics. I once read an article a couple years ago (back when the price of gas started going up quickly) about two gas stations in a price war. All of a sudden, one of the stations dropped it's price below cost, and the other station couldn't compete. What did the station that couldn't go below cost? Why they pulled up a tanker to the other station and started buying their gas below cost for their own station. I believe the article stated they got to $400 of fuel before the pump was turned off.

Re:European Mindset? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092376)

As an European (Finn) I have to say that the French politics is a wierd mixture. You cannot make any generalizations over that -- bit like the Italian politics, but for a different set of reasons. ;)

France has some very funny laws that try to protect their language from "americanization" (your language, dudes!) and I suspect that this law is just one of them. It protects the publishers publishing in the French language, so it is totally logical in France.

Re:European Mindset? (1)

Iloinen Lohikrme (880747) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092546)

My take on this is that the original law is more or less old, and probably it has been legislated because of pressure from special groups, in this case book publishers and book retailers. I really don't think that there is bigger logic here. If you look French or German legislation, especially tax and work legislation, they are just bloated and have too many special cases. Thought this seems to be same situation in every big country.

I really think that there is no real basis for this law and it should be changed. However what Amazon is doing is the completely wrong way. No government takes it with smile when a company brakes the law willingly. If Amazon and Bezos are so serious about this issue they should have started negations with the French government and tried to make some kind of deal that would have allowed Amazon to ship free or give bigger discounts. Now I'm afraid that now the French government definitely is not willing to negotiate as it would be seen as giving up to a company that doesn't respect the law and the state.

It should also be noted that the court gave Amazon a slap in the wrists as the fine is only 1000 euro/per day in violation. To me this seems that the court really wasn't there to get Amazon seriously, actually this seems to me that the court didn't regard this matter or the law regarding this issue very highly as the fine is so small. If I would have been Bezos I would have took the courts judgment as a nod to negotiate with the goverment seriously, but now as Amazon and Bezos have acted so bullishly they for certainly are asking for trouble.

People do the opposite of this on Ebay (1)

capitalistnihilist (892686) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092240)

I can see the French point of view somewhat. Shipping is an accepted and expected part of the price of something and to offer that up for free is an indirect discount on the price. I'm sure we've all seen ebay auctions that do the opposite by selling some $2 gizmo and charging $10 for shipping. Of course these people do this for different motives (to save listing fees) but with this in mind would you say the gizmo cost $2 or $12? When I shop online I consider shipping costs on everything I buy because as far as I am concerned the shipping cost is part of the total cost of the item.

granted (2, Interesting)

DeeQ (1194763) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092314)

That shipping does add cost to the book however it doesn't help small bussiness at all. If people wanted to buy the book locally they would. It would cost the same, and it would be instant delivery. People are ordering the books off amazon with free shipping because it is more easy to do than to go down to a book store and find the book. I myself wouldn't mind paying the extra money to just be able to order a book online just for the fact it wont take me 10 years to locate it. Finding new books isn't hard but when you have to find a old one, it can be a pain to find. Its the small companys fault for not having a different system to make buying books more easy. Book stores in my expereience are horribly layed out and hard to find anything that you are looking for.

Re:granted (1)

malchus842 (741252) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092446)

It certainly appears to me that this is an attempt to protect those stores against Amazon. Whether or not this is good for the consumer is an open question. I love to browse at bookstores -you find things you might otherwise not find. But frankly, I buy the vast majority of my books from Amazon because the price and shipping deals are often just to good to pass up. The thing is, if the local bookseller doesn't provide sufficient value in services to make up for the price difference, there is little anyone can do to help him, except restrain others from selling at a lower price. And that's what the French government is doing.

My preference is for allowing the market to settle this. That does not appear to be the French model. To each his own. It's their country and they are free to run it as they see fit. Countries can complete for people just like businesses do. If they are overly out of touch with their people, good people will leave if things don't change. Or kick the bums out. if they approved, so be it.

Vive le difference!

Re:granted (2, Interesting)

Albanach (527650) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092448)

QED. The purpose of the law is to encourage more bookshops to stock a wider selection of books, knowing they are not going to be undercut by a large conglomerate. Where such agreements don't exist, there tend to be fewer bookshops, and those that do exist focus on the high volume new releases, making older, more obscure texts harder to purchase.

Of course there are disadvantages to be argued too, however the point of the law is to alleviate the very problem you see with bookshops.

Sarkozy may have a point (4, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092388)

Isn't this exactly the kind of nonsense that Nicolas Sarkozy wants to put an end to? Fining a business for doing something that BENEFITS consumers just because of pressure from some lazy brick-and-mortars (who would rather hide behind their union and the laws they've forced through than innovate and compete) seems insane.

Re:Sarkozy may have a point (2, Insightful)

msuarezalvarez (667058) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092636)

Well, the well-being of a whole economy is a bit more complicated that the simple lowering of the prices of some goods. This is quite basic, and has been analyzed to death a few thousand times. For example, see the book by Adam Smith (you just have to get past the part where the nice imagery about the invisible hand is used and gointo the actual analysis)

Yeah! (1)

Reality Master 201 (578873) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092670)

I also don't know shit about the case, or the laws in France regarding this kind of thing. But if it's the French and it affects an American company negatively, then it must be bad!

It's insane because I, like you, know absofuckingloutely nothing about the situation!

Re:Sarkozy may have a point (1)

sqldr (838964) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092764)

Destroying choice by driving smaller companies that can't compete out of the market doesn't benefit the customer at all.

People hear about France's stupid laws all the time. Then you actually GO there and find out that these laws are clinging on to all sorts of things that the French are rightly proud of.

The food is excellent, and kept at a high standard by the government (appelation controllee), the architecture is beautiful, the way of life is relaxing, the roads are clean and well maintained. School children get fed properly. The museums are magnificent.

Yes, they pay tax through the nose. Then again, if they don't like it, they can cross the border to any other country in the EU and miss out on all of the above. I wouldn't live there, because I get homesick after a few days there, but that doesn't stop me going there to soak it up and enjoy it regularly.

It is just a question of etymology (5, Funny)

paiute (550198) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092406)

Because the French have no word in their language for entrepreneur, they are not capable of understanding the American concept of laissez-faire.

no big deal (0)

farker haiku (883529) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092412)

Makes sense to me. 30k for a month while Amazon's BAs come up with a brib^H^H^H^H solution to the problem.

Re:no big deal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092686)

For some reason I get the impression it went something like this.

F: guilty! You will be fined 1000 (pinking to lip a la auston powers)
A: Really?... who do we make that out to?
F: A DAY!
A: sure. fine. Really, who do we make that check out to?

French Rebuttal (-1, Troll)

scubamage (727538) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092416)

The French government has posted a reply, best summarized as, "Ribbit, ribbit. Ribbit ribbitribbit RIBBIT! Ribbit!" Go drink some wine and leave amazon alone Frenchy. In all seriousness though, what about companies such as Walmart and Circuit city who offer online discounts and then allow the product to be shipped directly to a store? That to me would equate to the same as free shipping.

fuck the french? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092502)

What a great tag for this story. Fuck the French? Yes, that's descriptive ... I know some Americans seem to hate the French, but really, WTF, tags like this make slashdot look like myspace. Slashdot is really going down the shitter...

Re:fuck the french? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22092572)

You must be new here.
Slashdot has been deep down the shitter for years already. Full of fucking morons.

Them French sure have a lot of time on their hands (1)

jpellino (202698) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092618)

and this is what they come up with - price fixing for dead trees.

My country, my rules (3, Insightful)

CustomDesigned (250089) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092676)

I have a hard time getting excited about this. In the email world, the saying goes, "My server, my rules." Every organization has their own policies on how to deal with spam and bend the rfc2821 rules in different ways. They won't accept your mail because they don't like certain (perfectly legal) characters in the MAIL FROM (like '+')? You can either cross them off your list or make special exceptions when sending them mail.

In the same vein, this is not a fundamental justice issue. France determines the rules to trade in their country. If you don't like them, you don't have to trade there. Or, you can program in special exceptions (no free shipping) for French customers. We can argue about whether their rules are stupid or not (rejecting email based on legal MAIL FROM chars is stupid). But this isn't a case of oppression or murder.

Kind of like that iPod law? (1)

terrible76 (855014) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092680)

Hmmm. In 20006 France passed the iPod law, which was covered here on Slashdot. However, parts of that law after it was passed were struck down. All governments have crazy laws, most of which are old and need to be updated. I disagree with the law, however it was put into place for an obvious reason. The problem is with the Internet, online sales and the general economy small mom and pop stores all over the world are being harmed. I do not think this law will save those stores anymore and as all old laws I'm sure this one will take years to get off the books.

Amazon should think about it (1)

FudRucker (866063) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092690)

Amazon should charge a penny or whatever is the lowest possible denomination in French currency, that way shipping is not free yet shipping charges is so cheap that it adds virtually nothing to the cost if the item purchased...

Great Idea (2, Insightful)

kylant (527449) | more than 6 years ago | (#22092802)

Adding the price of shipping to the book and prohibiting discounts is a funny idea. Let's see: If you have to add the price of shipping to a book sold by an online seller you have to add other costs as well, e.g. the costs of your book shop. So if you are selling a book for the standard price and your bookshop is nicer than the one across the street you are giving an illegal discount. The same would be true if your bookshop has more employees or better qualified employees than the average bookshop. We should therefore call for legislation defining the "standard bookshop" - just to make sure there isn't any evil competition at all.
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