France Toughens Book Pricing Rules for Amazon, Online Shops

France is toughening book-pricing rules for online retailers like Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) with a new law aimed at supporting bookstores and volumes that aren’t immediate bestsellers.

France’s national assembly today unanimously approved a proposed law that blocks online stores from offering free shipping on top of a 5 percent maximum discount on books. When delivery costs are waived, they should be accounted for within the rebate limit, according to the text.

“Free shipping, let’s say it, is a dumping strategy,” Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti said during the parliamentary debate. “This law, far from preventing competition or blocking technological evolution, makes sure competition is fair between players in a fragile ecosystem.”

Amazon has a 70 percent share of the online book market in France, said Christian Kert, one of the bill’s authors. Retailer Groupe Fnac (FNAC) runs its own Internet bookstore.

The amendment on shipping, which will next be voted on by the senate, builds on a 1981 law singling books out as a “cultural exception”, deserving a distinct set of pricing rules. In France, a book’s price is fixed by the editor and has to be the same regardless of the distribution channel, while discounts should follow strict rules, the law says.

“Any measure raising the price of books on the Internet will hurt the purchasing power of French people first and foremost, and discriminate against those who make purchases online,” Sophie Touchot at Havas SA, which represents Amazon in France, said in an e-mailed statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Marie Mawad in Paris at mmawad1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Vidya Root at vroot@bloomberg.net

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