With the French ban on free shipping by online bookstores now in effect, Amazon.com Inc. (NSADQ:AMZN) is doing the next best thing: charging French customers just a penny for shipping and handling.
“We are unfortunately no longer allowed to offer free deliveries for book orders,” Amazon said in an FAQ to shoppers, according to a report from France24. “We have therefore fixed delivery costs at 1 centime per order containing books and dispatched by Amazon to systematically guarantee the lowest price for your book orders.”
France’s National Assembly voted to ban free shipping for online book orders last month, and it took full effect last week. Lawmakers said the nation’s bookstores needed protection from online competitors, who they claim “dump” the books on the market at a loss.
The free shipping ban passed as an amendment to a 1981 law meant to protect independent retailers, prohibiting discounts of more than 5 percent on new book sales. The law does, however, allow for discounted shipping although online booksellers will no longer be allowed to discount book prices.
France has the highest number of bookstores per capita, with 3,500 stores. The UK has fewer than 2,000, by comparison, a number that continues to fall as profits are eroded by Internet competition.
Amazon also faces an EU inquiry related to its European tax headquarters in Luxembourg to determine whether the online retailer’s relationship with the nation amounts to illegal tax avoidance.