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France tells Amazon to stop shipping books for free or pay up; Amazon pays up

Amazon.com, one of the largest stores online, offers several features that entice buyers to purchase there, such as "one-click purchasing" and free shipping on many items. While Amazon's multiple attempts to patent "one-click purchasing" has drawn no small amount of ire, the offer of free shipping has been lauded as a beneficial attribute -- until now.

Amazon.com's French website Amazon.fr currently stands in violation of a 1981 French law prohibiting certain discounts on books. The ruling by the French High Court contained two fines -- a one-time lump sum payment of €100,000 to the French Bookseller's Union, and a fine of €1,000 per day until the offending "free shipping" promotion is ended. While the proverbial gavel banged on December 12th, a "grace period" until mid-January gave them time to "correct the problem" and respond.

Amazon indeed responded -- but with defiance rather than compliance.

The 1981 Lang Law in France prohibits several type of discounts on books, including "loss leaders" -- selling a book below cost -- and offering a discount of more than 5% off the list price. With the "free shipping" discount factored in, France officials found Amazon in violating this law; but rather than raise their prices and risk losing customers, Amazon decided to hold fast.  The company opted to pay the €1,000 per day fine.

Amazon.com founder and CEO Jeff Bezos wrote an email calling attention to the fact that "France would be the only country in the world where the free delivery practiced by Amazon would be declared illegal" and invites customers to sign an online petition stating their support of free shipping.

While Amazon's fight may seem noble, the current value of the fine is fixed for thirty days only. At that time, it will be "adjusted" ... and likely in an upward direction.





"I'd be pissed too, but you didn't have to go all Minority Report on his ass!" -- Jon Stewart on police raiding Gizmodo editor Jason Chen's home










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