Amazon.fr keeps free shipping, for now

Amazon.com said on Monday that it would rather pay €1000 a day in fines than abolish its free shipping on books in France.

Free shipping from Amazon.fr is apparently a violation of a 1981 law that was passed to ensure the French public receives equal access to all forms of literature.

The Lang Law (81-766 August 10, 1981) says that the selling price of books must be indicated by the editor on the cover, and that any retailer is required to sell the work at a price ranging between 95% and 100% of the price indicated. This provision was intended to keep the selling price of books homogenous between points of sale, preventing discount retailers from dominating dedicated booksellers and subsequently reshaping what literature is available to the public at large.

A union of French bookstores sued Amazon last month over the free shipping on orders over €20, saying that the cost of Amazon's delivery reduced the price of a book to one lower than allowed by the Lang Law. The booksellers were awarded €100,000 in damages in the suit, and Amazon was ordered to enact a delivery charge.

Amazon appealed the ruling on Friday, but must pay €1000 each day it does not charge for delivery as a penalty for not observing the court order. Xavier Garambois, director of Amazon.fr said the company will pay the fine rather than charge for shipping. Thirty days after the initial ruling, the court may extend, raise, or lower the fine.

Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon said that France would be the only country where the free delivery option would be declared illegal.

An online petition showing customers' favor toward free delivery received over 120,000 hits by Monday evening.

The petition says, "The continuations of this trade union are no less than a cynical attempt to eliminate competition from Amazon.fr. The legal argumentation of the trade union is based on the Lang Law, which limits reductions to the suggested retail price of books. The irony of this tactic is that the purpose of the Lang Law is to preserve the diversity of cultural creation and to give to the booksellers the means of offering a broad selection of books, not only best-sellers [and] Amazon.fr, places at your disposal the vastest offering of books in French available in the world."

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