French Senate Votes to Curb Discounts by Amazon, Online Stores

The French Senate unanimously voted yesterday to curb discounts by Amazon.com Inc. and other online retailers, seeking to support local bookstores.

The upper house of parliament passed the bill, approved by the National Assembly in October, which puts it on track to becoming law. The proposed law blocks online stores from offering free shipping on top of a 5 percent maximum discount on books. It calls for waived delivery costs to be included in the rebate limit.

The bill is an attempt by France to support both its struggling bookstores and titles that aren’t immediate bestsellers. During a debate that preceded the October vote, Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti said “Free shipping, let’s say it, is a dumping strategy.”

Amazon has a 70 percent share of the online book market in France, according to Christian Kert, one of the bill’s authors.

The bill 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 publisher and has to be the same regardless of the distribution channel, while discounts should follow strict rules, the law says.

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