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French Fine Amazon For Free Shipping 578

Posted by kdawson
from the that's-just-fine dept.
strech writes "Ars Technica reports that France is fining Amazon for offering free shipping on some orders. A French high court ruled in December that the practice violated a law preventing discounting the price of a book more than 5% off of the publisher's recommended price. Amazon has decided to pay the fine, rather than drop free shipping. The fine currently stands at €1,000 per day but is automatically reconsidered after 30 days, after which it could be raised dramatically."
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French Fine Amazon For Free Shipping

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  • by j.sanchez1 (1030764) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:44AM (#22092122)
    How the hell does giving free shipping mean that the price of the book is discounted? The book is $7.99 or whatever regardless of the price of shipping, free or not.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      It's France; whining is what they do best.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:39AM (#22092784)
        Yes, France does have some great whines.
    • by dpete4552 (310481) <slashdot@tux c o n t a c t.com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:56AM (#22092246) Homepage
      Because the court decided the price of the book was the total cost to the customer after the book cost itself AND ground shipping were taken into account. So if the book is $7.99 and ground shipping is $2, then the total cost to the customer is $9.99. By Amazon not charging the customer that $2 they have, in the eyes of the court, discounted the book by 20%.

      IMO, it sounds like the court went out of their way to find a definition that would allow them to bully an American company in order to protect French book sellers.
      • by j.sanchez1 (1030764) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:58AM (#22092266)
        But TFA says "list price".

        That law forbids booksellers from offering discounts of more than 5 percent off the list price, and Amazon was found to be exceeding that discount when the free shipping was factored in.

        Wouldn't that mean the cover price on the book itself? I don't see how shipping and/or tax would be included in that.
        • by gardyloo (512791)
          Poor reporting? No, wait: we know that journalistas never get their factoids incorrect, or promulgate ambuggerous, non-cromulent verbiosity.
        • by jellomizer (103300) * on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:22AM (#22092534)
          Forgive me for sounding American, But that sounds like a stupid law to me...
          Amazon.com already bought the books so the publisher already has their money and so would the authors. Whatever price they decide to sell them should be up to Amizon. If they want to cut their profits and leave money on the table it is up to them to make that choice. I would guess the law was passed to help the Mom and Pop err um. Mummaire and Pappaire (Yes it is most likely spelt wrong and problably only used in Quebec French) Shops to insure they can compeat with the big guys. But shouldn't the restriction occure between the publisher and retailer to insure that the large company cannot buy bulk orders at a higher discount forcing the company to sell the books at simular prices.

          There are pleanty of non-evil reasons to sell books at a discount, for example some time books are updated or are not popular so they will sell them heaviliy discounted to get them off the inventory. (selling at a loss or break even pricing) Because of Bulk Shipping I bet Amazon Get good rates for shipping. So where it would cost $2 to ship a book it will only cost Amazon $0.50. Thus making this law even more flawed.

          As I said I am sorry if I sound to American, but I tend to beleave in a free market echonomy, with its ups and downs.
          • by dwandy (907337) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:56AM (#22093030) Homepage Journal

            Whatever price they decide to sell them should be up to Amizon.
            actually i believe in the Grand Old U. S. of A has anti-dumping and other competition laws. These laws are France's. Yes, they will be different from those in the US, but the intent is the same: keep companies from exerting undue market pressure, which (in theory) causes competition, which (in theory) is better for the consumer.

            The real question for Amazon's lawyers is why they don't relate the "free shipping" to "free parking" at a mall...that *should* wipe out the argument and put it in perspective

            ... but IANALMLAFL (...Much Less A French Lawyer)

            • by mdozturk (973065) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:18AM (#22093368)

              As a publisher I can tell you the breakdown is roughly something like the 25% for printing, 25% for the author/publisher, 50% for the distributor. When amazon gives a discount it is from its own share (the 50%).

              Dumping means selling less than the cost to print (>75% off the cover price). In the US the laws are designed for the benefit of the consumer. Lowering prices are encouraged.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by teslar (706653)
        Got any source for that? Cause as far as I can tell, you just made that up and it's bullshit (and not +5 Insightful, mods - way to check a claim before modding).
        The real beef [01net.com] (link in French, sorry) the Syndicat de la librairie française has with Amazon (and other online sellers) is twofold. By not charging delivery costs (In France and I think Germany, there is no minimum order for free delivery costs if you only buy books), they are
        1. selling at a loss (vente à perte)
        2. associating a free service with
        • by raehl (609729) <raehl311@nOSPam.yahoo.com> on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:24AM (#22092556) Homepage
          Is that France has a pile of protectionist laws screwing up their economy and this is just one of them.

          Amazon isn't selling at a loss. They're just selling at a price that some stores don't want to compete with. And French law, instead of giving the consumer the right to buy where they can get something the cheapest, instead forces the consumer to pay more for a product than they need to.

          You'd think it was pretty silly if the US had a federal law that said that you could only sell a product for no less than 5% of MSRP, wouldn't you? And you'd think it was ESPECIALLY silly if that law only applied to particular products?

          Well, except agriculture, but there we just write checks to producers.
          • by genji256 (1108069) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:47AM (#22092902) Homepage

            And French law, instead of giving the consumer the right to buy where they can get something the cheapest, instead forces the consumer to pay more for a product than they need to.
            This law allowed small bookstores to stay alive. You might see this as an attack on free market (which it is), but it is also allowing French people to buy books they would have a hard time to find otherwise. In the US, on the other hand, the big stores are healthy, but finding something which is not mainstream is rather hard, especially outside the big cities. Now, should this be done for every product? I don't think so. The consumer who wants something eclectic doesn't have a right to get it (even more at a reasonable price), like fresh fruits at a market (French don't have laws to maintain the markets and they mostly buy their food at large shopping centers). However, Lang decided that the culture had to be treated differently, which I agree with, even though it goes against the conception of free market (as others have stated, free market doesn't solve everything).
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by DrEldarion (114072)

              but finding something which is not mainstream is rather hard, especially outside the big cities.
              It's a good thing we can get those books on Amazon.
            • by cfulmer (3166) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:01AM (#22093102) Homepage Journal
              Beg pardon? Amazon is, after all, the world's biggest bookstore. You're much more likely to find something out-of-the-mainstream at Amazon than you are at your local bookstore. Heck, if that weren't the case, people who want out-of-the-mainstream books would continue to shop at the local bookstores, who would not be threatened by Amazon at all.

              The only "culture" at risk here is the culture of inefficient small bookstores.
              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by CheshireCatCO (185193)
                Actually, that is counter to my experience. I've had much better luck going through my local independent bookstore (which is part of a nation-wide network of small bookstores) than going through Amazon for unusual books. There are a lot of book on the shelves of the small sellers, books that the big retailers won't touch. Any specific one of them may be statistically unlikely to have a rare book you want, but if you tap all of them at once, you're bound to get it. (If you don't want to go through your l
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by colonslash (544210)

            This protectionist law is protecting their independent booksellers. What you call screwing up their economy, others call preserving their quality of life. Some people actually enjoy browsing physical books among their friends and neighbors.

            Here in the US, I've lived in a few places where the downtown is filled with empty storefronts, with a WalMart on the edge of town.

            I am not sure they have the best way to price in the external costs of a big box bookstore driving local bookstores out of business, bu

          • The law is not protectionist. Protectionism means that you do not allow foreign goods onto a local market. Since a French company, Alapage [alapage.com] got in trouble for doing the same thing, you cannot classify this as protectionism.

            And the agricultural policy is not French, it is a competence of the EU [wikipedia.org]. The US does the same thing with its farm subsidies. Make no mistake, without regulation, the free market does not magically make agricultural production better, it impoverishes farmers and leads to huge fluctuatio
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by TobascoKid (82629)
              And the agricultural policy is not French, it is a competence of the EU.

              But it's the French who block any major changes to CAP, because it so strongly benefits French farmers at the expense of other European citizens.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by securityfolk (906041)
          Ok, then, easy solution is this... Charge the French and Germans for shipping, but don't charge the other countries. Awesome - way to represent your people, France.
        • Bullshit. Amazon doesn't sell at a loss. It's more socialist garbage, people trying to figure out how to use government to screw a large corporation. Good luck with that, it'll do wonders for your economy.
        • by Billosaur (927319) *

          2) I might give them, but it's pretty iffy. 1) I don't buy -- even at the discounts Amazon gives on books, rarely do they ever sell them at a loss. If that's the case, then not charging shipping doesn't create a loss. This is a case of a government trying to manipulate the definitions to fit their needs, in this case: money.

        • by p0tat03 (985078) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:34AM (#22092706)

          Documentation from Amazon will easily prove claim #1 to be false (there's no way they're selling at a loss), and IMHO only someone out to get the company would claim #2, since shipping is OBVIOUSLY an ancillary service that adds no value to the product besides what consumers ALREADY expect from the sales contract. This is a good example of gross judicial abuse, takes the law where it was never meant to be applied, and amounts to legislating via judiciary.

        • by wren337 (182018)

          What I think is interesting though, is that the seller in the brick-and-morter store is also offering free shipping. He has taken the books from the wholesaler to his warehouse, broken up the pallets and delivered them to his stores, and kept his stores warm and well lit, at no additional cost to the buyer above the price of the book. In other words the MSRP of the book includes enough profit to completely cover the cost of his distribution channel.

          When Amazon ships the book from a central warehouse to th
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Telvin_3d (855514)
        Actually, I think the focus on the free shipping is a kind of red herring. The problem is with the final price to the consumer. Take your example of a book that has a list price of $9.99. If Amazon is selling it for $7.49 + standard $2.00 shipping the final price is $9.49, or a 5% discount no problem with that. The courts are counting the shipping charge as part of the price of the book because it is. If you go to a normal book store and buy a book, the price of the shipping is being absorbed there, it
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by oliderid (710055)
        It is even more nasty than that. Books are sold under a fixed retail price in France as far as I know. Practically it means that books "must" cost the same in your supermarket and in your local bookseller. Such a law is aimed at protection small booksellers. (it doesn't mean that I share this point of view...).

        Honestly I don't think they want to bully american companies...This is just an company facing another absurd/bureaucratic european law.
      • At first... (Score:2, Interesting)

        by PinkyDead (862370)
        I completely agreed with your sentiment, however, on thinking about it for a minute, from a strictly accounting point of the view the French courts are completely correct.

        The cost of the book to you is:

        Cost of the Book + Cost of Shipping

        Now the shipping is outside of Amazon's control because it goes through a third party (i.e. the postal service) and so they cannot offer free shipping (only the postal service can do that), but what they can do is reduce the cost of the book in order to offset the cost of th
    • by plague3106 (71849)
      More to the point, why should book sellers in France not be able to sell the book for whatever price they want?
    • by Blakey Rat (99501)
      This is a new French philosophy, the consumer anti-protection laws. They just pass laws now to make consumers pay more for stuff and prevent them from getting discounts.
  • What possible reason could France have for this law, besides being successfully bought by big business?

    Quite sad really.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Lunchbox359 (980601)
      It's not big business, it's the unions. RTFA
    • by cnettel (836611) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:50AM (#22092176)

      What possible reason could France have for this law, besides being successfully bought by big business?

      Quite sad really.
      The notion that it helps small retailers, so business, but not necessarily big business. The publishers and the retail sector can gain from it, while those interested to compete on price and the general public do not, at least not related to their book purchases.
      • by 0123456789 (467085) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:07AM (#22092358)
        We had a similar law in the UK until about 10 years ago. Prior to it being repealed, I thought it was absurdly anachronistic. However, since it was repealed, supermarkets have been stocking, and massively discounting, high-profile books (Harry Potter and the like). The downside is that it's become almost impossible to find a small, independent bookshop, and even the large chains are struggling. In response, the large chains are cutting the breadth of their stock, instead stocking more of the high profile titles, and similarly discounting them. The net effect on the consumer? You can get Harry Potter or 2 dozen other titles for £2, but you're screwed if you want something else. I think it's fair to say that most /. readers want to buy books other than John Grisham, Harry Potter, and celeb biography du jour.


        Thankfully, Amazon fills the gap. However, browsing a decent, well-stocked book store is a far more pleasant experience than browsing Amazon.

        • by elefantstn (195873) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:14AM (#22092432)
          I'm not sure how to take seriously someone who says in 2008 that you're screwed if you want a non-bestselling book. We live in a time of unprecedented availability of books (and music, and movies, etc.). Truly screwed was when you went to the cozy little independent bookshop and they didn't have your book. Then you backordered it for six weeks.

          This is paradise for book-buying, regardless of whatever romanticized ideal of the independent bookseller you cling to.
          • by antifoidulus (807088) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:43AM (#22092836) Homepage Journal
            Amazon et. al are great when you know exactly what you are looking for. But(way back when anyway) small independent bookstores are(were?) usually run by book nuts who really got a chance to know you and could be counted on to discuss books you have read/like/might like. Amazon's suggestion software is good, but not a perfect replacement. Not to mention some people enjoy the atmosphere of just wandering through rows and rows of books looking for a treasure.

            It's still probably not worth erecting such stubborn laws to protect, but there is something to be said about the atmosphere of a small book store.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Bytal (594494)
              Obviously, not enough people are willing to pay extra to browse in such an "atmosphere". Otherwise, these small bookshops would be thriving. However, plenty of people are willing to subsidize these little bookshops using other people's money, by making sure that all the consumers have to pay high prices.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by zippthorne (748122)
              And if that was valued by society, those small, independent bookstores run by book nuts would still be around. But it isn't, which is why people are doing what they always did: buy books that they hear about from adverts or their friends. You don't need a book nut to do that, you just need a place to buy what you want for the best price you can find.

              Now, there probably is something to be said for that atmosphere, but not in every town like you posit once existed. That's the kind of thing that goes in whe
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by hopeless case (49791)
          "The net effect on the consumer? You can get Harry Potter or 2 dozen other titles for £2, but you're screwed if you want something else. I think it's fair to say that most /. readers want to buy books other than John Grisham, Harry Potter, and celeb biography du jour."

          What about the net effect on the consumer of the government setting prices? How can Europeans give in so easily to the passage of so many rob-peter-to-pay-paul laws and still have functioning economies? I don't doubt that they have som
        • by jrumney (197329)
          That sort of blandization of the high street has happened across the board in the UK, not just with books. I don't know what people without internet access do these days when they want something that isn't a lowest common denominator fly off the shelves product.
    • by lottameez (816335)
      I suspect the thinking is because excessive discounting could be used to drive out competitors that couldn't go that low without going out of business. Once small helpless competitors are driven out, then the anti-competitive big bad business can set their prices to whatever they want. I wonder if there is also a law saying that they can't sell it for more than 5% of the publishers marked price? And then you'd need a law for the publisher... and then you'd need a law for the paper producers... and anothe
    • by FireFury03 (653718) <`slashdot' `at' `nexusuk.org'> on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:53AM (#22092218) Homepage
      What possible reason could France have for this law, besides being successfully bought by big business?

      I understand that the law was passed to prevent supermarkets from putting book sellers out of business by selling the most popular books at knock-down prices (the theory being that if all books are sold by the supermarkets rather than proper book stores you would only be able to buy the most profitable books).
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        (the theory being that if all books are sold by the supermarkets rather than proper book stores you would only be able to buy the most profitable books).

        As someone who did all the perfunctory research into starting a bookstore, I can certainly tell you this is true.

        Look, in retail, floor space == $$$$. In the U.S. (and probably most of the rest of world albeit with different units), retail space is leased per square foot per month. The more bookshelves you have, the more square footage you need to house them all. The more books you have, the more bookshelves you'll need.

        Carrying a very, very broad and deep selection of books means that you'll have a lot

        • Carrying a very, very broad and deep selection of books means that you'll have a lot of books that will sit on the shelf collecting dust until the right buyer comes along.

          This isn't just about expensive shelf space though - if you want a niche book you can ask the bookstore to order it for you, but I bet you'd get nowhere asking a supermarket to do the same (bear in mind this law predates the likes of Amazon).

    • by clickety6 (141178) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:58AM (#22092262)
      A lot of countries have or had the law - like the Net Book Agreement in the UK. It helped keep the average cost of book lower and ensured that a wider range and variety of books got published. It was abolished in the UK some years back, since when a lot of smaller book shops disappeared and it has gotten harder and harder to find shops with a wide range of books rather than those just pushing the most recent best sellers at discounted prices.

      Germany has a similar system in place but is also facing problems because the Swiss have decided to allow discounted German books.

      So the law gave readers a wider range of books and, on the whole, helped keep prices lower.

      • The Net Book Agreement was not a law (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Net_Book_Agreement), it was a collusion between publishers and sellers to keep book prices artificially high.

        It ended when such collusion was ruled to be illegal. If smaller shops disappeared, it's because they had previously only existed by unfairly exploiting the consumer.
    • Here's one reason (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Foolicious (895952)

      Yes. The law was enacted in 1981 to prevent the market from being flooded with only cheap, marked-down books (think of those strip mall "Discount Books" places, if you live in the US), and, as I'm sure you can guess, to keep competition, ummm, competitive. The law has been brought before the mighty French court before, both times being upheld, probably because it's even in its application; it's not like it applies to some sellers and not others. It's like a price control. This was all brought to light be

  • Ob (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    By the time you've read TFA, they'll have probably surrendered.

    Captcha: steaming (like a fine mug of frosty piss)
  • European Mindset? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phobos13013 (813040) on Friday January 18, 2008 @08:54AM (#22092226)
    I'm trying hard to understand this. Looking at European governmental action, typically these governments act to protect the consumer. I do not immediately see how forcing a higher price on a commodity can be good for the consumer. But then I remember Wal-Mart; look at Wal-Mart by offering lower prices for so many years has hurt local economies, local goods providers who cannot compete with volume pricing... which is exactly what Amazon does as well. They can take a hit on shipping because they probably have cut rate contracts with delivery companies anyway that local French sellers cannot compete with! So, all I can think is that the French government has bothered to look beyond the obvious, oh we save them 8EU so we are obviously better for the consumer and realized that there is more to a healthy economy and healthy society than saving someone a buck or two...
    • It is not that difficult: you'll find a brief summary in this post, http://politics.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=422664&cid=22092262 [slashdot.org]

      Lowering the prize is not always the best for consumers, in the long run.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Bud Dickman (1131973)
      Why legislate choices for the community to make? If people want to shop at Walmart and destroy their locally-owned businesses - isn't that their right in a free and open society?
      • by FatSean (18753) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:20AM (#22092510) Homepage Journal
        When the retards who only see the cost of their purchase in dollars destroy their local economy, they will go crying to goverment for help. Those of us who knew better will have to bail them out. Better to prevent the fools from dragging us all down. This is the same logic used for gun control, drug laws, seatbelt laws, child protection laws, etc...

      • by msuarezalvarez (667058) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:28AM (#22092604)
        Much as refusing to take vaccines...
    • Loss leaders (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Rob T Firefly (844560)
      Wal-mart and other big stores can cut prices dramatically not only from "cutting deals," but from simply offering certain items as what is called a "loss leader."

      For instance, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, and other big stores often get their music CDs for the same price that other, dedicated music stores would pay (say, for example, $10) but they actually price the CD for less than they paid for it (say $9) and intentionally lose money on the purchase. The idea of course is that a customer who comes in to buy that
      • In theory if people walked into Best Buy and bought nothing but music CDs the company would hemorrhage money, but in practice of course their plan works out perfectly while the smaller music shops can't possibly compete on fair ground. (One owner of a local music shop near me routinely sends his employees to the big stores to buy stock for his shelves, because it's a better deal than he can get from his supplier. How screwed up is that?)

        Not screwed up at all. That's economics. I once read an article a couple years ago (back when the price of gas started going up quickly) about two gas stations in a price war. All of a sudden, one of the stations dropped it's price below cost, and the other station couldn't compete. What did the station that couldn't go below cost? Why they pulled up a tanker to the other station and started buying their gas below cost for their own station. I believe the article stated they got to $400 of fuel before t

    • My take on this is that the original law is more or less old, and probably it has been legislated because of pressure from special groups, in this case book publishers and book retailers. I really don't think that there is bigger logic here. If you look French or German legislation, especially tax and work legislation, they are just bloated and have too many special cases. Thought this seems to be same situation in every big country.

      I really think that there is no real basis for this law and it should be c

    • by pubjames (468013) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:52AM (#22092976)
      But then I remember Wal-Mart

      You've hit the nail on the head. But this problem is potentially much worse in many European countries. Why? Because they are considerably smaller markets than the USA. For instance, if you are a publisher of obscure books in the USA, you have a huge market - enough to support your company producing obscure books. But in much smaller countries, it is much harder, so these type of law are essentially there so the smaller publishers and booksellers don't get wiped out.

      What works well in the USA won't necessarily work well in other countries where the business environment is very different, and as you point out, sometimes their are bigger issues than saving the customer a dollar (or euro).
  • granted (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DeeQ (1194763) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:03AM (#22092314)
    That shipping does add cost to the book however it doesn't help small bussiness at all. If people wanted to buy the book locally they would. It would cost the same, and it would be instant delivery. People are ordering the books off amazon with free shipping because it is more easy to do than to go down to a book store and find the book. I myself wouldn't mind paying the extra money to just be able to order a book online just for the fact it wont take me 10 years to locate it. Finding new books isn't hard but when you have to find a old one, it can be a pain to find. Its the small companys fault for not having a different system to make buying books more easy. Book stores in my expereience are horribly layed out and hard to find anything that you are looking for.
    • It certainly appears to me that this is an attempt to protect those stores against Amazon. Whether or not this is good for the consumer is an open question. I love to browse at bookstores -you find things you might otherwise not find. But frankly, I buy the vast majority of my books from Amazon because the price and shipping deals are often just to good to pass up. The thing is, if the local bookseller doesn't provide sufficient value in services to make up for the price difference, there is little any

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Albanach (527650)
      QED. The purpose of the law is to encourage more bookshops to stock a wider selection of books, knowing they are not going to be undercut by a large conglomerate. Where such agreements don't exist, there tend to be fewer bookshops, and those that do exist focus on the high volume new releases, making older, more obscure texts harder to purchase.

      Of course there are disadvantages to be argued too, however the point of the law is to alleviate the very problem you see with bookshops.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:10AM (#22092388)
    Isn't this exactly the kind of nonsense that Nicolas Sarkozy wants to put an end to? Fining a business for doing something that BENEFITS consumers just because of pressure from some lazy brick-and-mortars (who would rather hide behind their union and the laws they've forced through than innovate and compete) seems insane.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Well, the well-being of a whole economy is a bit more complicated that the simple lowering of the prices of some goods. This is quite basic, and has been analyzed to death a few thousand times. For example, see the book by Adam Smith (you just have to get past the part where the nice imagery about the invisible hand is used and gointo the actual analysis)
    • I also don't know shit about the case, or the laws in France regarding this kind of thing. But if it's the French and it affects an American company negatively, then it must be bad!

      It's insane because I, like you, know absofuckingloutely nothing about the situation!

    • by sqldr (838964)
      Destroying choice by driving smaller companies that can't compete out of the market doesn't benefit the customer at all.

      People hear about France's stupid laws all the time. Then you actually GO there and find out that these laws are clinging on to all sorts of things that the French are rightly proud of.

      The food is excellent, and kept at a high standard by the government (appelation controllee), the architecture is beautiful, the way of life is relaxing, the roads are clean and well maintained. School chi
  • by paiute (550198) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:12AM (#22092406)
    Because the French have no word in their language for entrepreneur, they are not capable of understanding the American concept of laissez-faire.
  • Fffmmmm... (Score:5, Funny)

    by archeopterix (594938) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:14AM (#22092428) Journal
    French fine for free freight? Formidable.
  • and this is what they come up with - price fixing for dead trees.

  • by CustomDesigned (250089) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:32AM (#22092676) Homepage Journal
    I have a hard time getting excited about this. In the email world, the saying goes, "My server, my rules." Every organization has their own policies on how to deal with spam and bend the rfc2821 rules in different ways. They won't accept your mail because they don't like certain (perfectly legal) characters in the MAIL FROM (like '+')? You can either cross them off your list or make special exceptions when sending them mail.

    In the same vein, this is not a fundamental justice issue. France determines the rules to trade in their country. If you don't like them, you don't have to trade there. Or, you can program in special exceptions (no free shipping) for French customers. We can argue about whether their rules are stupid or not (rejecting email based on legal MAIL FROM chars is stupid). But this isn't a case of oppression or murder.

  • Amazon should charge a penny or whatever is the lowest possible denomination in French currency, that way shipping is not free yet shipping charges is so cheap that it adds virtually nothing to the cost if the item purchased...
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by o'reor (581921)
      Agreed, that would be the easiest way for them to make the complaints go away.

      But I think the french judges are barking up the wrong tree: the real culprit here in France is the french "public" postal system. It used to be a public monopoly ("La Poste"), aimed at making the service affordable at an equal price whoever you are, wherever you are in the country. I.e. if you were a marketing company with 20000 letters to send a day, you had to pay roughly the same (per item) as an individual who occasionnally

  • Great Idea (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kylant (527449)
    Adding the price of shipping to the book and prohibiting discounts is a funny idea. Let's see: If you have to add the price of shipping to a book sold by an online seller you have to add other costs as well, e.g. the costs of your book shop. So if you are selling a book for the standard price and your bookshop is nicer than the one across the street you are giving an illegal discount. The same would be true if your bookshop has more employees or better qualified employees than the average bookshop. We s
  • by theophilosophilus (606876) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:47AM (#22092906) Homepage Journal
    The price of socialism is that getting a good deal is a crime. If you aren't paying full price someone isn't getting paid full price. The U.S. was like this once. Under FDR a farmer could get fined for growing wheat for the sole purpose of feeding to his family because, hypothetically, if every farmer did this it would impact the market for wheat. See Wickard v. Filburn [wikipedia.org]. Imagine what this logic would mean if it was applied to technology [wikipedia.org].
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by MadUndergrad (950779)
      That's a bit disingenuous. If you read that article, the farmer got fined because the total amount of wheat he grew was in excess of the limits set by the gov't to stabilize prices of wheat. The issue was that he felt that his personal wheat should be exempted from that limit, whereas the supreme court ruled that it shouldn't. He was free to grow his own wheat, so long as he didn't exceed the total limit.
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Friday January 18, 2008 @09:55AM (#22093008) Journal
    ...I believe this is not a French-exclusive sort of deal. I would say it's generally continental/European.

    In my experience in Germany at least, the prices of books are entirely fixed by a cartel BY LAW and it's illegal to sell them below that cartel's set prices. Pretty sad in a country that values learning so highly.
  • It's dumping (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bytesex (112972) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:04AM (#22093140) Homepage
    Europe has very strong anti-dumping laws generally. This could be considered dumping; somebody has to pay for the shipping after all. If the publisher recommends that it be sold for a certain price that you may not be more than 5% off of, you can betcha that the thing isn't sold to the stores for any less than 5% off of the recommended price (and that in low-supply areas, the stores put 10% on top of that price). I don't mean to defend it, I think it's old-fashioned and awkward; I'm just trying to explain it. In theory, Amazon could try to push everyone off the market by offering books for a few cents for a few years. Where do you draw the line ? I know the taxman will draw a line at a certain point at least.
  • by houghi (78078) on Friday January 18, 2008 @10:05AM (#22093184)
    If you want to do business in a country, you follow the laws by that country. How hard is that to understand?

    If you do not want to do that, you do not do business in that country.

    Wether this is an American company in France, A Belgian company in Spain or a Russian one in the USofA.

    I am sure that I will be fined selling alcohol to people under the age of 21 in the USofA, no matter what my opinion is of that law, or the fact that the country of my headoffice allows this. I am sure both Heineken and InBev would agree.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Alaska Jack (679307) *
      Huh? No one is disputing that the French have the *right* to do this. What's being disputed is their judgment in actually *doing* it.

            - Alaska Jack
  • by porpnorber (851345) on Friday January 18, 2008 @01:10PM (#22096866)

    I find it fascinating that everyone here is discussing the ethicality and/or economic rationality of the French decision to fine Amazon, but nobody has taken up the issue of Amazon's deciding to pay the fine rather than obey the law. Is it seriously the view of every single slashdot reader that the purpose of the law is to raise money, and the sole reason for obeying the law is to avoid paying fines? Does the message that the French are sending—we do not want you to do this in our country—mean nothing?

    I have long thought that the core problem with US culture, beyond even the diminishing influence of science, is that the ideal of the Rule of Law got lost at some point. While the evidence is indirect, this may be the starkest example I have seen in a long time.

    Please, someone prove me wrong, and agree with me that Amazon is putting itself in a very bad light by ignoring this decision, whatever you may think of the reasoning behind it!

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anaesthetica (596507)
      Amazon is engaging in civil disobedience on behalf of their customers--the customers certainly like it, so it cannot be that all French are against free shipping. I don't think anyone on Slashdot has a problem with breaking what they view as an unjust law. In fact, most of us break several laws every day, most of which we view as unjust and therefore without moral force.

      France: Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, No Free Shipping.

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