Amazon under fire in France as coronavirus restrictions hit rivals – POLITICO

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Amazon is trying to fend off a wave of criticism in France as businesses large and small, opposition politicians and government officials accuse the company of unfairly benefiting from lockdown restrictions.

Frédéric Duval, Amazon’s country director for France, made a media tour on Thursday, telling several media outlets that the company was prone to “fantasies” about its alleged dominant position in electronic commerce.

The tour comes after a chorus of attacks from ministers and opposition figures who said Amazon could benefit from rules banning the sale of “non-essential” items such as books and makeup in stores physical.

On Monday, Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot announced that the government would reduce postage to facilitate orders in local bookstores. “Amazon is spoiling itself. It’s up to us not to feed him, ”she said.

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, who pleaded for keeping bookstores open, called for a boycott of American society.

“We are absolutely not a dominant player,” Duval told French radio RTL. According to Kantar, Amazon’s share of the French e-commerce market was 22.2% last March.

Retailers also participated in the roast. Supermarket chain Intermarché on Thursday launched full-page newspaper ads titled “Sorry, Amazon” to announce that it will also help small businesses index and sell their products digitally.

But Amazon has also presented offers and training measures to help French companies sell online – through Amazon, of course.

Duval described these policies in an interview with Le Parisien, insisting that “we are in no way an adversary of the state. Amazon.fr is a French company based in France. ”

Opposition locale

Amazon is also fighting on the local fronts.

This week, tensions erupted around the Alsatian town of Ensisheim, near Strasbourg, where a planned 190,000 square meter warehouse is said to be under construction for Amazon.

Duval denied that his company had expansion plans in Alsace. But on Wednesday, the great ecological metropolis of Strasbourg verified the name of the company when it joined opposition to the project, stressing its attachment to “ecological transition”.

Pascal Lacombe, spokesperson for the Cauldron of Alternatives, a grassroots organization that joined a protest against construction on Thursday, said: “It is the Amazon model in its entirety that we reject. He cited tax evasion, surges in traffic and the lack of local focus as areas of concern.

A sensitive point for Amazon in France has been the conditions in its warehouses and the conflicts with the unions. In the country, where Amazon operates seven warehouses, a lawsuit brought by the unions led to a legal defeat of the company in April, which prompted the company to close all of its France-based operations until the 13th. May at least. to take the case to the French Supreme Court, but ultimately sealed a deal with the unions to reopen in late May.

However, not everyone is going after Amazon.

During a question-and-answer session in the Senate on Wednesday, the Junior Minister of Digital, Cédric O, went to bat for the company by declaring: “French psychosis on Amazon makes no sense. E-commerce represents 10% of commerce in France; Amazon accounts for 20% of e-commerce. There is no European country where Amazon is inferior to France. ”

The government of President Emmanuel Macron is aware of the influence of the digital giants and has repeatedly criticized the fact that they emerge as the big winners of the crisis during the first wave of the coronavirus crisis.

Bercy supports at EU level a reform of competition rules to regulate so-called “gatekeepers”, of which Amazon is one.

Additional reporting by Elisa Braün and Laura Kayali.

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