Hit with a ban on delivering books for free by a 26-year-old French law, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) is defying the ruling – and trying to win customers’ support for legal reform. The court ruling was made after a case was brought by a consortium of rival sellers in December under the so-called Lang Law. That provision was introduced in 1982 to soothe competition fears of smaller booksellers and to ensure diversity of bookers, and ensures only publishers can set their book prices; sellers can only offer discounts of up to five percent.
Amazon is taking the monetary cost on the chin, paying a 1,000 euro-a-day fine to France’s bookseller association, the Syndicat de la Librairie Française, while it continues to deliver for free. But founder Jeff Bezos isn’t stopping there. He’s posted an angry letter on the site accusing rivals of “nothing more than a cynical attempt to eliminate competition from Amazon.com”. “You will have to pay more to buy your books,” he warned, atop a petition designed to muster customer support.
So once again an overseas service is rankled by European cultural protectionism. Bezos: “France is the only country in the world where free delivery practiced by Amazon would be declared illegal.” In fact, Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Norway all operate some kind of fixed-price book law, according to the European Booksellers Federation.