France takes aim at Amazon to protect local bookshops

Reuters

PARIS, Oct 3 (Reuters) - French lawmakers on Thursday tookaim at Amazon in a bid to protect local bookshops byvoting through a law that bars online booksellers from offeringfree delivery to customers on top of a maximum 5 percentdiscount on books.

The law is part of France's broader regulation of bookprices and curbs on discounting, which was passed in 1981 by theSocialist government at the time to protect small bookshops fromsupermarket chains.

In the past decade, online outlets have challenged physicalbookstores, prompting French publishers to lobby for a change inthe law to stop what they call Amazon's "dumping" and "unfaircompetition".

According to a French parliamentary report, online booksales rose to 13.1 percent of total book sales in 2011 from 3.2percent in 2003. The country is still home to more bookstoresthan most countries with 2,000-2,500 in a country of 65 millionpeople, compared with 1,000 in Britain, which has roughly thesame-sized population.

"The (book pricing) law is part of our cultural heritage,"said conservative lawmaker Christian Kert who sponsored thebill.

France's lower chamber, with the support of the Socialistgovernment, passed the law unanimously. It will now go to theSenate, which is expected to pass it by the end of the year.

It is only the latest example of France taking aim atU.S.-based Internet giants.

Last week the country's data protection watchdog movedcloser to fining Google for the way it stores andtracks user information after the search engine ignored athree-month ultimatum to bring its practices in line with locallaw.

France has called on the European Union to regulate globalInternet companies such as Google, Amazon and Facebook more aggressively, to counter their growing dominance of onlinecommerce and services.

It is pushing within the OECD and G20 organisations totighten tax rules to make sure that Internet companies cannotavoid tax by locating their headquarters in low-cost EUcountries. Amazon and Google are subject of ongoing tax auditsin France.

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