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The Least They Could Do: Amazon Charges 1 Cent To Meet French Free Shipping Ban

timothy posted about 2 months ago | from the not-a-sou-more dept.

Books 309

Last year, we mentioned that the French government was unhappy with Amazon for offering better prices than the French competition, and strongly limited the amount by which retailers can discount books. Last month, the French parliament also passed a law banning free delivery of books. Ars Technica reports that Amazon has responded with a one-penny shipping rate on the orders that would previously have shipped free. Says the article: This is by no means the first time France has tried to put a damper on major US tech companies dabbling in books or other reading materials. In 2011, the country updated an old law related to printed books that then allowed publishers to impose set e-book pricing on Apple and others. And in 2012, there was the very public dispute between French lawmakers and Google over the country's desire to see French media outlets paid for having their content pop up in search results. At least for now with this most recent situation, an online giant has found a relatively quick and easy way to regain the upperhand.

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Not France vs US (5, Insightful)

medoc (90780) | about 2 months ago | (#47441289)

This is not at all about the French/US competition, the big French sites like fnac.com are subjected to the same rules of course.

You can think one thing or another about the rules, but they are about the big sites killing off the small local shops.

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441297)

Well that's how the cookie crumbles with any market. Sure, some good balance of regulation is good but competition is also good for the consumer. And France is probably on the side of over regulation while the US is often under regulated (sans the broken patent system, for example).

Re: Not France vs US (1, Insightful)

lanswitch (705539) | about 2 months ago | (#47441329)

If Google wants tot do business in France they should obey the laws of France, not frustrate the lawmakers. That is just not professional.

Re: Not France vs US (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441337)

Or move their operation outside of France and ship from there to side step regulation. I'm no advocate of big biz but the law makers in France seem to be too protectionist (see: good regulatory balance).

Trying not to "piss off the law makers" simply caters to their silly protectionist rackets that are doomed to fail business and consumers in the long run.

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441409)

Other big companies already do something similar to save billons on taxes...

It's not about protectionism, its about mitigating blatant abuse of the big sharks.

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441415)

How does this protect the avg consumer then?

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441673)

Countries are about citizens, not consumers. Athough their interests sometimes overlap in the short term (lower prices), this may not be the case in the long term.

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441879)

Countries are about citizens, not consumers. Athough their interests sometimes overlap in the short term (lower prices), this may not be the case in the long term.

You obviously don't live in the US if you are making that comment. In the US, money=speech, and who can bribe the most politicians gets their way, and of course bribery, stealing, etc, are unprosecuted when you are on the proper side of the "just us" system.

Re: Not France vs US (1)

loufoque (1400831) | about 2 months ago | (#47441551)

This is already what Amazon is doing to circumvent French regulations that prevent websites from storing credit card information.

They're still subject to other laws though.

Re: Not France vs US (2)

khallow (566160) | about 2 months ago | (#47441371)

If Google wants tot do business in France they should obey the laws of France, not frustrate the lawmakers. That is just not professional.

They are obeying the law. They're charging for shipping just as the unprofessional law in question requires them to do.

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441395)

Google != Amazon. In the case of Google the law in question is copyright of content that pop up in search results. How does charging for shipping help with that?

Re: Not France vs US (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 months ago | (#47441837)

Maybe not. The law says they need to charge shipping costs, so unless their couriers are charging them â0.01 they are probably not complying. They are just hoping that it takes the authorities a long time to get around to forcing them to charge the real price, which will be obfuscated as much as possible, by which time the will have forced even more of the competition out of business.

Re: Not France vs US (1)

Imrik (148191) | about 2 months ago | (#47442005)

Then they'll negotiate a discounted rate with the couriers by paying an annual fee.

Re: Not France vs US (3, Interesting)

geoskd (321194) | about 2 months ago | (#47442043)

Maybe not. The law says they need to charge shipping costs, so unless their couriers are charging them Ã0.01 they are probably not complying. They are just hoping that it takes the authorities a long time to get around to forcing them to charge the real price, which will be obfuscated as much as possible, by which time the will have forced even more of the competition out of business.

This actually presents an interesting problem. Many carriers contractually require that shippers not disclose the discounts they are being given. That means that if Amazon discloses the discounted shipping rates they are paying, then they loose their discounts, and everyone pays retail. This basically royally screws the shippers, and the consumers. As usual, the French have completely failed to think through the consequences of their actions. It continues a fine decades long tradition of fucking up in the name of protectionism. Its the reason, they have double and triple the rate of unemployment of the rest of the world.

Protectionism only works if your society is close to export parity. If you can afford to close your borders completely without collapsing your economy, then protectionism will work (and you actually don't need it under those circumstances). Whenever there is an imbalance, protectionism screws up the local economy. If there is a trade deficit, then your economy hemorrhages money until everyone is broke and in debt. If there is a trade surplus, then protectionism shuts it down, as no one wants to buy from the over-priced asshat who actively blocks foreign competition. With parity, you can afford to significantly reduce trade in both direction (and you will), but any other time its a bad idea.

Re: Not France vs US (1)

MouseTheLuckyDog (2752443) | about 2 months ago | (#47441387)

You know it adfvances your argument a lot more if you know what companies are involved.

Re: Not France vs US (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 2 months ago | (#47441403)

And when you do business in china that includes censoring all information the communist party doesn't want shown and giving access to the email accounts of political enemies.

Sorry, you have to keep your own conscience with these things.

When the politicians decide to be absurd you do what you can to frustrate their stupidity... and absent that, shut down operations and embarrass the politicians by creating a market vacuum.

Screw france and any other country that thinks they have a right to control how markets operate.

Re: Not France vs US (3, Interesting)

Ash Vince (602485) | about 2 months ago | (#47442011)

Screw france and any other country that thinks they have a right to control how markets operate.

How about screw companies that want to do business in a local area without following local laws?

Does your same logic apply to columbians who want to sell crack in the US? That is just the good all free market too isn't it?

Re: Not France vs US (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441561)

If france wants to do business with the world, they should obey free market laws. Fuck france.

Re: Not France vs US (3, Insightful)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 2 months ago | (#47441881)

If you don't want French money you're not obliged to take it.

If you do want French money then you obey French law.

If you think that Amazon are stupid enough to ignore the 9th largest economy in the world just because of some idiotic pseudo-religous worry about "free markets" I've got a bookshop to sell you.

Re: Not France vs US (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47442017)

Why the fuck would I want a bookshop in France?

*I* don't want to live in that stinking, rude, shitstain of a country.

And I certainly couldn't put up with hiring french workers due to the general air of laziness, entitlement and the idiotic laws that protect said laziness and entitlement.

To hell with France and their entire country's general overblown opinion of their position in the world hierarchy.

Re: Not France vs US (1)

silfen (3720385) | about 2 months ago | (#47441681)

What does a story about Amazon shipping charges have to do with Google? In any case, Amazon is complying with French law: they are charging for shipping. You'd think that all those highly educated, literate, and cultured French lawmakers are capable of writing correct laws, no?

Since Amazon probably gets sweet deals from shipping companies, they'd probably still be accused of trying to undermine the law even if they charged an estimate of their actual shipping costs. So, they might as well just comply with the letter of the law and let the French lawmakers go back to changing it.

Re: Not France vs US (1)

blackraven14250 (902843) | about 2 months ago | (#47441705)

Google is also written in to the summary, specifically mentioning how the French want them to pay sites they list in their search results. That seems like a terrible idea, considering having a search result exist on Google is essentially a free advertisement for your site...

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441949)

Have you considered that some laws are flawed?

Re: Not France vs US (4, Insightful)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 months ago | (#47441491)

Well that's how the cookie crumbles with any market. Sure, some good balance of regulation is good but competition is also good for the consumer. And France is probably on the side of over regulation while the US is often under regulated (sans the broken patent system, for example).

Yes, competition is good for the consumer, which is why France wants to protect competition in the marketplace. Monolithic pile-em-high, sell-em-cheap outlets lead to monopolies. Amazon is increasingly dominant in more and more markets, and getting damned-near monopolistic.
The original fears in France weren't only about the loss of small shops, but also about the result loss of variety in the publishing sector (the supermarkets only stock a small selection of the most popular literature, much of which is pulp and/or translations). Amazon certainly doesn't pose a threat to variety of material, but the monopoly is still worrying. What France recognises is that employment makes the monetary system go round. Fewer jobs in your town means less money in your town, means less spending, means fewer shops, means fewer jobs, means...

Re: Not France vs US (2)

FireFury03 (653718) | about 2 months ago | (#47441621)

Amazon certainly doesn't pose a threat to variety of material

Sure they do - they try some pretty hard negotiation tactics with the publishers which sometimes results in books from certain publishers being withdrawn from Amazon. If Amazon is pretty much the only place you can get books then this is going to threaten the variety of material available to the general public.

Re: Not France vs US (1)

CastrTroy (595695) | about 2 months ago | (#47441901)

Perhaps. But personally I find that Amazon has made books way more accessible to me than 20 years ago. The town I grew up in didn't even have a book store. The closest thing was the mass market paperbacks you could find at the department stores and pharmacies. Now you can get just about any book you want delivered to your door in a few days. And often below cover price. If publishers want to compete with piracy, they need to make it more convenient for people to get the books they want, at the price they want.

Re: Not France vs US (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 months ago | (#47441805)

They looked over the channel and saw what has happened in the UK. Most places are what we call "clone towns", which all have exactly the same set of chain shops. There are very few independents left in most places. Choice is non-existent, as even where there are multiple chains they both tend to carry the same products and only differentiate (slightly) on price.

Re: Not France vs US (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 2 months ago | (#47441907)

Yes, competition is good for the consumer, which is why France wants to protect competition in the marketplace.

But that's not what they're doing. They're trying to suppress the competition. The competition is online, which is more efficient than having many unrelated bookstores. France wants to pretend to live in the past, while using modern technology against its people. French SWAT members (well, the equivalent) wear masks so they cannot be recognized. Yeah, it's a democracy. Right.

Re:Not France vs US (4, Insightful)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 months ago | (#47441309)

Protectionism is protectionism, whether protecting "small" from "big" or "local" from "foreign" or "wasteful/bad" from "effective". I know a number of small shops. They haven't been killed by Amazon. The smaller book stores have gotten into service and knowledge. Selection and price is for Amazon. Casual discussion of authors while exploring, and running into other people in the shops is left for the locals.

But then, I haven't been book shopping in France.

Re:Not France vs US (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441331)

Considering how bookshops have been obliterated by Amazon in the US and the UK I don't think the French attitude towards restraining Amazon is bad. It simply puts everyone on the same playing field. And before you Yanks scream of communist plot know that Italy and Germany both have laws that limit the maximum discount on books. Around 15% or so.
This ensure really big companies like Amazon can't destroy local shops only on price.
But then Europe is not the US.

Re: Not France vs US (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441373)

Well, the problem with this line of thinking is omitting the fact this is largely a technology issue.

Progress will continue regardless of regulation. If the prices for books are relatively high, the negative externality of higher rates of book piracy may occur in the long run. Basic supply price vs demand.

Sure, some people might prefer paper copies but the monetary cost of free often overcomes that aspect.

Re: Not France vs US (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441423)

It is not a technology issue. The law that stated a maximum of 5% discount for books goes back to 1981. Decades before Amazon even existed. It was put in place to assure that local bookshops could compete on an equal term to big competitors (like supermarkets selling books etc...). Right now the French government has only clarified that that 5% maximum discount is also to include also the shipping charges. So you can't do 5% discount (allowed by law) on the book + x% discount (shipping).

Now as to the price of books, maybe you don't know but french books cost on average less than american ones. And considering the US is a much larger market, a free market WHAT does that really tell you ? The French have a vibrant cultural market. Especially when it comes to books. They love books, they love reading, and they buy a lot of books. Much more on average than americans. If this law were so bad you would see people stopping buying books but that's not what happens. Ensuring that local bookshops survive is a good thing to everyone.
Imagine a future were only Amazon or Apple can distribute/sell books. It would be a nightmare. Even now when thy don't have much of the market they're brazen in their attemps to censor/blocks books that aren't morally suited to the corporation. You want to publish a young adult books that talks about teen sex, tough luck. Apple doesn't like it so you don't get to publish it. No thanks. Having retail stores that stock and get access to all the back catalog is a good thing for everyone.

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441489)

The web wasn't around in 1980s and we are still transitioning to the effects of ecommerce. Technology is largely about increasing efficiency/productivity. Buying things online increases many aspects of efficiency (e.g. lower overhead) and often results in lower prices to customers.

Independent bookstores in the US are adjusting to online juggernaut sales while big box bookstores are closing. People still like bookstores but like lower prices and good service for the money more.

I'm not pro-Amazon or monopolies but this strikes be as a protectionist price-fixing move. But that's just my opinion, which may be wrong, of course.

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441557)

The web wasn't around in 1980s and we are still transitioning to the effects of ecommerce. Technology is largely about increasing efficiency/productivity. Buying things online increases many aspects of efficiency (e.g. lower overhead) and often results in lower prices to customers.

Yes e-commerce brings efficiency. That doesn't imply the cost savings must be passed on to the consumer.
Amazon even with this law is vastly more efficient than the local bookshops. Hence they sure make more profits on selling books (even with no discount) than most local bookshops. The French government is NOT regulating that Amazon must be as inefficient as brick and mortar stores. So technological progress still continues. This law has an effect only on the customer, not the company get that ?

Independent bookstores in the US are adjusting to online juggernaut sales while big box bookstores are closing. People still like bookstores but like lower prices and good service for the money more.

I'm not pro-Amazon or monopolies but this strikes be as a protectionist price-fixing move. But that's just my opinion, which may be wrong, of course.

Independent bookstores in the US are dying. The few that remain must sell something else besides books, and books account for less and less of their shelf space. Such a bright future.

Re: Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441603)

Interesting points but also keep in mind that the physical bookstore may ultimately become relatively niche regardless of regulation. IIRC, some countries have passed parity with ebook vs paper books in sales. Who knows what the impact of piracy is--digital books are often smaller than video or even audio files.

I say these things as a fan of the physical bookstore and would rather see them stay around. (I'm also becoming more wary of large tech companies in general but that's probably not relevant.)

In an ideal world, I'd want to see more of an online presence of independent bookstores like Powell's Books does in Portland OR. But that's difficult to scale/manage for small shops.

But ultimately the writing on the wall probably ain't too great for physical print media in the long haul, I'm sad to say.

Re:Not France vs US (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441389)

FYI: Fixed book price [wikipedia.org] . This is about more than just protection of retailers.

Re:Not France vs US (4, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 months ago | (#47441827)

Considering how bookshops have been obliterated by Amazon in the US

Borders and Barnes and Noble were obliterated by Amazon. But any book stores that survived Borders/B&N were not affected by Amazon at all. Amazon was late to the "cheap and easy" party, they just did it better than the big chains did, and hurt them most. Any small store that had a near by big store, was better off after Amazon, and the big store closed down again.

Re:Not France vs US (0)

Chas (5144) | about 2 months ago | (#47442049)

Considering how bookshops have been obliterated by Amazon in the US and the UK I don't think the French attitude towards restraining Amazon is bad. It simply puts everyone on the same playing field. And before you Yanks scream of communist plot know that Italy and Germany both have laws that limit the maximum discount on books. Around 15% or so.
This ensure really big companies like Amazon can't destroy local shops only on price.
But then Europe is not the US.

And how many buggy whips do you buy annually?

Re:Not France vs US (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441457)

Protectionism is protectionism, whether protecting "small" from "big"

Uh huh... I don't think that even technically true, Wikipedia and a bunch of dictionary sites all have protectionism as something that strictly occurs between states. If you take "protectionism" to mean absolutely any protection of a company, you really lose the negative implication of the word. Why didn't the entire economy collapse in 2008? Why don't we have continuing unemployment in the 25% range? "Protectionism." Which of course was just action taken to prevent total economic failure.

The French law against free shipping could be more accurately categorized under "anti-trust."

For your second point, about your anecdotal suggestion that Amazon's monopoly hasn't been disastrous for small businesses - I also have an anecdote: I live in western Kentucky and in the last ten years every bookstore within thirty miles has closed. The closest, according to Google, is the bookstore for a community college a few towns over.

Re:Not France vs US (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 months ago | (#47441511)

Whereas even small towns in France are packed with bookshops. In fact if your local newsagent isn't also a pub or a bookies shop, it will almost definitely have an impressive range of paperbacks.

Re:Not France vs US (4, Interesting)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about 2 months ago | (#47441809)

Yeah, and so what?

The underlying assumption behind this kind of move seems to be the belief that small local bookshops are inherently worth protecting. Why is that? It's not like if a bookshop closes the land it occupied is salted with radioactive waste. Something else, possibly something more useful will move in.

The real problem here is not Amazon or books or even Google, it's the French mindset that things should never change, that the old ways are always the best ways. Perhaps France has an unusually elderly set of politicians or voters, but you see this in all its areas, most notoriously agriculture. Old ways of farming were put on a quasi-religious pedestal and vast amounts of EU policy and budget were redirected towards preserving them.

Fetishing bookshops doesn't have any emotional appeal to me - they're just buildings stacked with a small and limited selection of reading materials, which inefficiently deploy land and people. Given the rise of the e-book even large chain bookshops will likely disappear over the coming decades, and who will cry for them?

Perhaps the space the bookshops used up can be replaced by coffee shops - spaces for social interaction and work, where reading an e-book and then meeting a friend and having a nice conversation at ordinary volume is a perfectly acceptable way to spend your time.

Re:Not France vs US (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441919)

At first I was firmly on Amazon's side. (After all, I've been buying stuff from them for many years.)

Then I realized the real problem. Amazon isn't just a bookshop. Amazon is an everything shop. When the corner bookshop closes down, what can move into the place that can't be undercut by Amazon and it's ilk?

Big internet sites make the economy more efficient. But the problem is an efficient economy doesn't need workers. And if there are no workers, there's no one to purchase the goods.

This isn't about preventing Amazon. It's about employing locals.

And now I'm thinking that maybe France has the right idea. Maybe a similar tax should be levied in the U.S. to promote people buying locally. To decentralize the economy just a little.

Re:Not France vs US (1)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about 2 months ago | (#47441975)

Big internet sites make the economy more efficient. But the problem is an efficient economy doesn't need workers. And if there are no workers, there's no one to purchase the goods.

"Workers" can find something else to do, possibly newer and more interesting kinds of work, or possibly less work on a four day week, etc.

Look, humanity is stuck on this rock, we aren't going anywhere unless someone figures out how to do the impossible and fly around the galaxy faster than light. So our society needs an eventual end goal, and it seems widely agreed that this end goal should be that we all live lives of leisure and can do/go/explore/build whatever the hell we like, whenever we like it. Obviously along the way that means we'll end up doing less and less work until hardly anyone is doing any real work at all and it's all done by robots a la the world of Manna which was discussed here on Slashdot not that long ago.

So if books get delivered by radio to a device with a battery that lasts for a month and gives me access to the whole world's library for a pittance, how is that not a giant step towards the kind of utopia I described above? Small local bookshops staffed by smart shop assistant girls with cute French accents are great until you realise they don't have the book you want and you had to haul your ass into town in order to discover this fact (assuming the shop was even open by the time you got there). It's not something I would trade progress for.

Re:Not France vs US (1)

Imrik (148191) | about 2 months ago | (#47442029)

The problem is no one is willing to pay workers 25% more per hour to have them work 4 days a week.

Re:Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441979)

Perhaps the space the bookshops used up can be replaced by coffee shops

While I applaud the idea, you noted in your previous post the main issue - "things should never change". This is true for humans in general not just small businesses or in this specific case French culture. Change = risk = unknown outcome = PROTECT THE CHILDREN!!!.

The issue becomes when monopolies form and what was once good+noble intentions has turned into evil+greed with the consumer ultimately suffering as result. See US broadband and US media companies for good examples. Unfortunately there's not an easy solution for this right now. Government intervention is the only tactical way of dealing with it but that won't do squat in the long-term. Change is the real solution and for which nobody is ever willing to take on due to the risk it presents. This seems like common sense but its rare how often it comes up in discussions as a viable solution.

Re:Not France vs US (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 2 months ago | (#47441729)

I also know small bookshops. They are either on main railway stations and sell crappy bestsellers or - if they are located elsewhere - they sell more hipster apparel than books nowadays.

Re:Not France vs US (1)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 2 months ago | (#47441523)

I can get wanting to protect something, but legally blocking something is just clinging to the past. I'll bet there used to be dozens of small buggy whip makers throughout France; too bad for them. It wasn't big business that killed them, it was technological progress. Now, if the people want to preserve the small shops, that's fine, they should shop at the small local shops. I sure do. I don't want to see video stores go extinct due to Netflix so I shop at mine, and I don't want to see book stores go away so I shop at my local bookstore. Just bought a book from them to start reading soon. But I'm not about to block anyone else from doing anything. The justification is understandable, but not sufficient. If the people of France really do not want free shipping, they can continue to shop at the small stores. If they do not, well, then I guess that shows what they really want.

Re:Not France vs US (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441553)

So what? This is business. That's how it works.

Otherwise we would still use candles to light our rooms, because traitors had taxed lightbulbs to save candles market, and would like to destroy the progress if only they could.

http://www.hardhatters.com/2013/04/the-marketplace-fairness-act-taxing-light-bulbs-to-save-candles/

Fuck french (and all) communists who lie about fairness and just want to steal money. Fuck them all and let them hang already.

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For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 2 months ago | (#47441299)

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What's the difference (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441311)

Amazon may say the shipping is free, but the truth is that the cost of shipping still exists. From an economics perspective, the burden of shipping costs is shared no matter who pays it.

Honestly, the only real figure of any importance is the total price. In summary, what a silly law.

Re:What's the difference (2)

AK Marc (707885) | about 2 months ago | (#47441313)

"free" means optional and not explicitly/separately paid for by the end user.

Shipping is free. Or now one cent.

Re:What's the difference (4, Insightful)

davester666 (731373) | about 2 months ago | (#47441361)

Shipping is optional? I wasn't aware Amazon permitted the option of driving to their warehouse to pick items up.

Re:What's the difference (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441463)

"free" means optional and not explicitly/separately paid for by the end user.

Shipping is free. Or now one cent.

Hey, Einstein, the packing and shipping process still happens, but someone else is paying than the customer. It takes human energy and burning fuel to get the goods to the destination.

Re:What's the difference (1)

mindwhip (894744) | about 2 months ago | (#47441339)

Are we talking free as in beer or free as in speech? Or are we talking a new "free"? "Free as in consumer choice"

So instead of "free" why don't they say "covered"? (2)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 months ago | (#47441343)

The implication being that although shipping is not truly free, the cost of it is already fully covered by the order and will be paid for by the shipper.

Re:So instead of "free" why don't they say "covere (0)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 months ago | (#47441367)

Because that is simply false. The cost of shipping is not simply a part of the cost of the product. It's the same product, regardless if you ship it to New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo or anywhere else in the world. Yet the shipping costs are clearly different. So if you tried to account for the shipping costs as an integral part of the product, you'd be guilty of various crimes, like tax evasion due to accounting fraud, and also price discrimination against some of your customers. Besides, you'd also be guilty of dumping, which is a variant of antitrust violation. And that's just in the US, mind you.

Re:So instead of "free" why don't they say "covere (1)

wmansir (566746) | about 2 months ago | (#47441399)

So you are saying that Amazon has somehow found a way to actually ship items for free, to both the user and itself? Otherwise, whether they call it "free" or "covered" the cost of shipping is covered by the product purchase price.

Re:So instead of "free" why don't they say "covere (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 2 months ago | (#47441499)

So you are saying that Amazon has somehow found a way to actually ship items for free, to both the user and itself?

No, I'm saying that the cost of shipping cannot be accounted for as an integral part of the product price, rather it must be accounted for separately. If it is nevertheless accounted for as part of the price, then Amazon would be doing a bunch of illegal things.

Re:So instead of "free" why don't they say "covere (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 2 months ago | (#47442025)

So you are saying that Amazon has somehow found a way to actually ship items for free, to both the user and itself?

No, I'm saying that the cost of shipping cannot be accounted for as an integral part of the product price, rather it must be accounted for separately. If it is nevertheless accounted for as part of the price, then Amazon would be doing a bunch of illegal things.

How you charge for it and how you account for the cost of shipping are two separate items. As long as the accounting makes clear that it is an expense related to sales volume and thus scales with sales I think you have accounted for that expense in a proper manner. You can price a product so that shipping costs are included, even if the exact cost may be more or less for that particular item; the goal is to ensure the variations even out so you maintain desired margins. It's no different than the shopkeeper or tradesman who quotes you a price and then delivers goods to your location. I fail to see what is illegal about it, unless a specific law prevents that in your location.

Re:So instead of "free" why don't they say "covere (2)

sumdumass (711423) | about 2 months ago | (#47441541)

you'd be guilty of various crimes, like tax evasion due to accounting fraud, and also price discrimination against some of your customers. Besides, you'd also be guilty of dumping, which is a variant of antitrust violation.

How so?

I mean building costs into pricing models has been around for quite a long time. Shipping is just one of those costs and costs come off the ledger for profit statements and tax purposes.

The US Postal Service has a flat rate box where if it fits, it ships anywhere for something like $15. If Amazon negotiates that to $10 and their average order qualifying for free shipping has 4 items in it, it is only $2.50 added onto the costs. So they take the retail price, discount it by 25% then add $3 to it and cover the costs of shipping without dipping too much into profits.

Businesses to this with taxes too. You place a fee or raise their rates and they just adjust their prices accordingly. It's easiest to do when the tax increase effects the entire industry too. Of course there has been some industries who got pissed and attached it as a separate fee specifically notating the law that caused the increase on the bill. Congress was really pissed when the telco industry started doing that.

Re:So instead of "free" why don't they say "covere (1)

countach (534280) | about 2 months ago | (#47441647)

Nonsense. By that argument, when you go into a shop and buy a shirt, you should pay for the shop assistant's time separately, and rental on the space you occupy in the shop separately, and fees for processing your credit card separately.

Use Your Head, Not Your Ass! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441375)

Do the French only understand things from the rear up? I bet they wipe their ass before taking a shit.

Paid taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441381)

if amazon and others giants really paid their taxes in the countries where they do business, this law does not exist.

Re:Paid taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441829)

in the countries where they do business

Is it really that simple? Back when people bought merchandise face-to-face in a brick and mortal shop the "business" was at the point of sale. But where is the business done when a company in the US collects money from a buyer in France and the product is shipped directly from China? Why should France control who gets the tax from that transaction?

Re: Paid taxes (1)

xaxa (988988) | about 2 months ago | (#47441933)

In that case, France would charge an import tax.

But what really happens is the book is printed in Germany, sold to Amazon in Luxembourg, sold to someone in France, and all the profit funneled through Netherlands and/or Ireland, where is somehow becomes no profit and hence no tax due.

Re:Paid taxes (2)

Chas (5144) | about 2 months ago | (#47442035)

if amazon and others giants really paid their taxes in the countries where they do business, this law does not exist.

Bullshit. First to last.

The idea that protectionist laws favoring home-grown business over large, well organize foreign ventures with low overhead if only they were bribed with even more taxes?

Naive at best. Idiotic in reality.

Why the assumption.... (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 months ago | (#47441417)

At least for now with this most recent situation, an online giant has found a relatively quick and easy way to regain the upperhand.

Why the assumption that it is good for for-profit companies to find loopholes and avoid the will of democratically elected governments. The French government has made a decision that will have repercussions. If this is followed, books will be more expensive in France, but they wont lose the independent small bookstalls in town high streets that so many other countries will have. It may also inhibit the ability of online companies to start in France. But, guess what, the people can decide. They can lobby for it to be an election issue, ask their representatives which way they vote, etc. If they don't like the law they can get it changed.

Why is it assumed to be better for a private company with a board who the French people ave no influence upon circumvent this decision?

Re:Why the assumption.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441461)

Why is it more democratic to have to elect representatives every few years who might vote in your favor, versus just letting people decide where they want to buy books? Seems more responsive and democratic to just let people spend their money how they will, and let the chips fall where they may.

Re:Why the assumption.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441585)

And forget taxes, too. If people decide they want to give money to their government, let them, and let the chips fall where they may.

Re:Why the assumption.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441465)

If the French people want the small booksellers etc. they can simply choose now not to go to amazon. Amazon offering cheap shipping isn't forcing anyone to use it.

I would say it's good because it actually gives the French people the choice now, not at some point in the future when they vote (and where it may not be the mot pressing issue, Party X is all for allowing free shipping on books, but also wants to reintroduce Capital punishment (say).

Re:Why the assumption.... (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 months ago | (#47441943)

If the French people want the small booksellers etc. they can simply choose now not to go to amazon. Amazon offering cheap shipping isn't forcing anyone to use it.

It comes down to whether you want to make a considered decision on something or rely on the populace's impulse purchases to determine the direction your country moves in.

Re:Why the assumption.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441517)

If the French want the small independent store, they can vote with their feet and patronize said stores. There is no need for government regulation here.

Re:Why the assumption.... (3, Interesting)

silfen (3720385) | about 2 months ago | (#47441601)

Stop being so naive. It's not "the French people" vs a "private company". This whole thing is about wealthy and powerful European publishers trying to rid themselves of competition that's threatening to erode their profits and their power, and local bookstores are a pawn in that issue.

As for the French people, if the majority wanted to shop at local bookstores, the issue would be moot, because local bookstores wouldn't be going out of businesses. Of course, even if the majority had that preference, it still doesn't have the right to impose that on the minority who prefers to shop at Amazon; the ability to engage in business without arbitrary restraints is essential to democracy.

Re:Why the assumption.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441843)

the ability to engage in business without arbitrary restraints is essential to democracy.

But the ability to control the population is essential to Socialism. Without that control the people would be free to make individual choices, some of which might be in their own interest rather than what those in power consider the best interests of society. Why, it could even go so far as people electing different representatives and eliminating some of the government controls! That would be tantamount to...Democracy.

Re:Why the assumption.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441657)

I think this has something to do with unintended consequences :)

Karel Kulhavy, Twibright Labs [twibright.com]

Re:Why the assumption.... (1)

countach (534280) | about 2 months ago | (#47441661)

It seems oddly contradictory to a capitalist society that you would legislate specifically to keep prices high. And it seems odd that people would want their elected representatives to do so. After all, if most people want the corner book shop to exist, even though it keeps prices high, they are entitled to vote with their wallet. I mean, what's next, airliners are banned because the SS France will be put out of business?

Re:Why the assumption.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441695)

It's not odd at all, once you realize that the whole issue is driven by European publishers trying to keep their profits high and trying to avoid competing with newer, low-cost alternatives. And it's not just about profits: the owners and operators of European publishing houses derive enormous political power and social status from their business, being able to determine the course of European culture, hobnob with intellectuals, and choose which political and social issues are important and which are swept under the rug.

It's all about power and money, and European businesses have refined the art of political corruption and public manipulation over centuries. US companies like Amazon aren't even in the same league (but may still win because their product is so much better).

Re:Why the assumption.... (1)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | about 2 months ago | (#47442033)

It seems oddly contradictory to a capitalist society that you would legislate specifically to keep prices high. And it seems odd that people would want their elected representatives to do so. After all, if most people want the corner book shop to exist, even though it keeps prices high, they are entitled to vote with their wallet. I mean, what's next, airliners are banned because the SS France will be put out of business?

It's not that odd or unusual. Many areas of the US have liquor laws that require purchase through a distributor and some even set minimum pricing, all of which protectors the entrenched interests and is why the fight tooth and nail against mail order alcohol sales.

Re:Why the assumption.... (1)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 2 months ago | (#47441747)

books will be more expensive in France, but ...

And let all the poor people be damned, yes? Well, at least they will have some outdated business kept around where they can browse books they can't afford. Let them read library books!

Re:Why the assumption.... (2)

IamTheRealMike (537420) | about 2 months ago | (#47441823)

Why the assumption that it is good for for-profit companies to find loopholes and avoid the will of democratically elected governments.

Democratically elected does not equal democratic.

The most democratic place I know of is Switzerland, where there is an absolutely constant stream of referendums on absolutely everything, mostly things that in other countries would be all be lumped under an umbrella vote for left or right. For example the Swiss recently voted on the question of whether to buy new Gripen fighter jets. The French, in contrast, have a system so undemocratic that the President doesn't even need the authority of parliament to start a war!

I think it's very corrosive to imply that people a huge bloc of people get a vote between two or three possibilities every four or five years, that somehow legitimises everything that government does in the meantime. It doesn't. The system of voting we have was decided on hundreds of years ago when most people couldn't even read and letters took days or weeks to cross countries. Representatives chosen locally every few years made total sense in such a world. It's now obsolete, much better possibilities can be imagined or even implemented. Western democracy is merely the least worst system tried so far, not the best.

In this case, there's no justification for the French government to be messing with Amazon. As pointed out in other replies to your comment, if the French people truly prefer their local bookshops over Amazon then they'll vote with their wallet, a far fairer and more democratic way of doing things than central government mandate. This idea isn't stupid, there are parts of the world that places big chain stores and brands don't make much progress in because of local culture. But times change and countries are very large. Take McDonalds in France. In 2013 we have this story about an anti-McDonalds protest and the local government attempting to block construction of a restaurant there [france24.com] . But then in 2014 we have another story where the French are protesting for a McDonald's [telegraph.co.uk] , they're upset because it's been delayed and they want it to open.

These sorts of disputes are best left to ordinary people to work out economically.

Free Shipping (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441425)

It's all very well offering things like this and obviously consumers love them. But ultimately when you are the size of Amazon and buy quantities on such a massive scale, you will suck the life out of niche competitors. What happens when all those competitiors are gone? You are left with one or two sources for every item and they can effectively charge whatever they like. Microsoft was seen as an unhealthy monopoly years back and this is no different.

Re:Free Shipping (1)

Jiro (131519) | about 2 months ago | (#47441495)

Microsoft takes advantage of network effects, Windows is more useful if lots of other people have Windows, because if lots of other people have Windows, most of the available software will be for Windows, so you'll need to buy Windows in order to be able to use it. Books don't work that way.

Re:Free Shipping (3, Interesting)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 months ago | (#47441505)

We should also remember that Amazon went years without profit, churning through venture capital like there was no tomorrow. They did this to muscle their way into the market, and to this day I don't know how they didn't get hauled up on anti-trust/anti-competitive charges for delivering loss-leaders.

Re:Free Shipping (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441707)

For the simple reason that it's not illegal, nor should it be illegal

Re:Free Shipping (1)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | about 2 months ago | (#47441745)

Not illegal? It is in various jurisdictions, but the law is quite convoluted.

france is such a pathetic country (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441459)

And they still force usage of their internationally-dead language on others.
Pathetic country of small self-centered and narcissistic people.

Re:france is such a pathetic country (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441571)

France is really TWO countries. Firstly there is the greater France and then there is Paris and its environs.
The equivalent would be to separate the greater US and what goes on inside the Beltway. The two are totally divorced from each other (and reality)

Many French People in rural France loathe the Parisiennes. When a car with a Paris Department number plate comes to my Village the locals suddenly become sullen and un-coopoerative towards the visitors. When the car leaves, life returns to normal. Even to a 'Les Rostbiff' like me they are far friendlier that they are to anyone from Paris.

I live most of the year in a village in the Haut-Savoie region, about 50Km from Geneva. We are just starting to see the holidaymakers from Paris arriving. Tomorrow marks the start of the French Summer holiday season as it is Bastille day.
Roll on Sept 1st and they all go home.

Re:france is such a pathetic country (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 months ago | (#47441925)

Many French People in rural France loathe the Parisiennes. When a car with a Paris Department number plate comes to my Village the locals suddenly become sullen and un-coopoerative towards the visitors. When the car leaves, life returns to normal. Even to a 'Les Rostbiff' like me they are far friendlier that they are to anyone from Paris.

The same is true in reverse too. I picked up quite a thick rural Normandy accent[1] when I speak French and discovered that everyone in Paris is a lot more polite to me if I speak French with an English accent...

[1] Cultural equivalents: For brits, think Devonshire farmer, for americans think deep south.

Re:france is such a pathetic country (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441967)

Had some exchange students from France once. One of them was always apologizing for the other being a jerk: "He's from Paris."

Stay out of the big cities and France is a wonderful place.

Re:france is such a pathetic country (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441643)

Pathetic country of small self-centered and narcissistic people.

That sounds a lot like another much bigger country.

france is such a pathetic country (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441905)

> And they still force usage of their internationally-dead language on others

By 2050 French could be the most-spoken language in the world, ahead of English and even Mandarin.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/pascalemmanuelgobry/2014/03/21/want-to-know-the-language-of-the-future-the-data-suggests-it-could-be-french/
http://www.antimoon.com/forum/t16740.htm

What's the point? (2)

silfen (3720385) | about 2 months ago | (#47441569)

I really don't see how making books more expensive than they need to be by adopting policies that support physical bookstores helps anybody. Shouldn't the goal be to make reading and culture as affordable as possible and meet the needs of buyers, instead of imposing particular delivery methods?

1 cent shipping but 5% discount no more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441583)

In France, books have a unique price but reseller can apply a 5% discount on the price if they want.
With this new law, shipping stays almost free but online bookstore are no more allowed to provide the 5% discount on books.

This grows on old law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441815)

The limitation on price reduction has been in place for over 30 years. The price is fixed by the publisher and nobody is allowed to to sell at higher than 5% discount.
Now, online sellers who do not ship to a brick and mortar book store where you retrieve it are not allowed to have that discount, and they cannot offer free shipping either.

But it doesn't affect only Amazon, but all sellers, Amazon being the biggest.

the problem is small independent book stores fail (2)

chentiangemalc (1710624) | about 2 months ago | (#47441841)

The problem here is Amazon is not killing small or independent book stores with free shipping. The problem is independent small book stores are typically overpriced, have poor customer service from a minimum wage clerk who doesnt care to assist, and worse don't have what i want to buy. i love how retailers continue to have a big sook about unfair competition from online shopping, while totally ignorant of the fact they are not delivering what most customers want. and not just price. i find Amazon customer service is *better* than most brick and mortar retail stores.... I just watched a video via archive.org "Blockbuster Customer Service Training" and found Most of the "bad service" examples to demonstrate typical retail experience.

It's not just France (2)

yacc143 (975862) | about 2 months ago | (#47441867)

Only as a side note, the German speaking countries have also a system where books are not allowed to be sold below the price set by the publisher. Nothing new here.

france has law designed to protect bookshop (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441873)

that is all there is to it.

there is an old law, designed to protect the small against the big by blocking the price of books at no more than 5% bellow face value (books have a price printed on them).... this is to avoid dumping and other 'big store' practices....

it was found that offering free shipping on books (but not on other products) was a way to circumvent the law... so it was also judged illegal....

is it right or wrong... well, that is another question which is very culture sensitive...

cyrille

Bezos proves he's a CONservative again (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441883)

The man just can't tell the truth. Here he illegally promised free shipping with no intention of actually doing that then he charged for shipping. That is the way of their kind. They just can't stop lying. Bezos has done so many dishonest things lately that it looks like he is preparing to run for office as a Republican.

Things are simple... (5, Insightful)

Ecuador (740021) | about 2 months ago | (#47441895)

You should never try to protect at an overall cost an established business, however small, cute etc it is. Bookstores have to close. Not all of them, but a lot of them. The ones that actually provide value to the customer will stay due to people actually visiting them. For example I love Amazon, however there is one small local bookstore that provides a great personalized experience and does not gouge prices to which I go first. I see a lot of people not minding a surcharge when they get even more value out of the experience, so this bookstore will servive. Also that small bookstore has found things to bring that Amazon doesn't have etc. Protecting or bailing out failing businesses is always bad for the community as a whole in the long-run. Yes, poor buggy whip makers will be out of jobs in the short term, but we can't all be riding carriages into the future...

a liitle context and missing info (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 months ago | (#47441973)

living in france there is one major part of the info missing in this short description, free shipping is only banned if you also offer a discount from the recomended price.

this may seem odd but a price tag of say 10€on a book minus the 10% discount and free shipping can cause smaller/local shops to not be able to keep up as they have higher fees tied to renting and maning the bookstore (per book sold).

also the fench goverment is always puting forwards the "french exeption" where taxes from booksales and TV licensing goes towards creating content (music, film and literature) despite there being a massive overhaul on comic creating and the way they pay taxes at the moment (causing many french comic artists to currenty fear for the future of ther art). so this may seem trivial but is far from it.

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