PARIS (Reuters) – Amazon has proposed to increase the cost of delivering books to France to around 2 euros instead of next to nothing if parliament withdraws a bill that would make it harder for the e-commerce group to undermine bookstores local, a French senator told Reuters.
Senator Laure Darcos said Amazon offered a minimum delivery charge of 1.80 to 2.00 euros ($ 2.03 to $ 2.25) when its vice president for books and Kindle content, David Naggar , met the Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot on August 25 in Paris.
“They were willing to increase the shipping cost to 1.80-2.00 euros outside of the premium subscription fee to align more closely with the shipping costs of other goods on one condition: that we were removing our bill so that it doesn’t benefit bookstores, ”Darcos told Reuters. .
The proposal, details of which were not previously released, was part of Amazon’s months-long lobbying to remove the bill, Darcos and five other lawmakers said.
Amazon declined to confirm that the meeting took place. When asked what was said at the August 25 meeting, Amazon made no comment.
Independent bookstores are held with particular affection in France, the country of Victor Hugo and Simone de Beauvoir. But they are under pressure from e-merchants like Amazon, Fnac and Leclerc, who have eroded their market share. Of the 435 million books sold in France in 2019, more than 20% were purchased online.
The bill would set its own minimum price for shipping books to France in an attempt to level the playing field for independent bookstores.
Free delivery of books is currently prohibited in France. Amazon currently charges a single penny (cent) compared to 5 to 7 euros (5.82 to $ 8.15) for local bookstores.
Darcos, who drafted the bill, was not present at the August 25 meeting but was briefed by an official in the room.
A second lawmaker briefed by someone with direct knowledge of the meeting confirmed that a proposal in the order of 2 euros had been made. A third lawmaker briefed on the meeting said the figure “rings true”.
Bachelot’s office confirmed the meeting with Seattle-based Naggar had taken place, but declined to comment on the exchange.
Darcos said the proposal was echoed to him in a separate meeting by Yohann Benard, Amazon’s public affairs director for Southern Europe.
She said the company was concerned that French law – which doesn’t name Amazon – could set a precedent. Amazon did not comment.
President Emmanuel Macron’s government has refused to budge and parliament is expected to pass the bill on December 19, after which a minimum shipping price for books must be agreed with the regulator before it becomes law.
Amazon says the legislation would make books more expensive for French consumers, especially those in rural areas far from any bookstore.
An Amazon spokesperson told Reuters that more than 40% of its book shipments in France go to postcodes without a bookstore. An increase in minimum shipping costs would cost French consumers around 250 million euros per year, the Amazon spokesperson added.
The law would only increase Amazon’s margins, company officials told the second lawmaker aware of the Aug. 25 meeting, who requested anonymity because Amazon’s operations are a sensitive issue in his constituency.
The same lawmaker said Amazon had proposed the floor price for the period until April 2022, when France will elect its next president.
Amazon did not comment.
The Culture Ministry previously told Reuters that Amazon’s pricing strategy enabled a single operator to take growing market share.
French booksellers largely attribute their survival to a 1981 law which prohibited discounts on the price of new books.
(1 $ = 0,8882 euros)
(Reporting by Elizabeth Pineau; Additional reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Catherine Evans and Jane Merriman)