The principle of a minimum delivery price for the purchase of books online adopted by the National Assembly
the principle of a minimum delivery price for the purchase

The deputies unanimously adopted on October 6 the bill for the establishment of a floor price for the delivery of books purchased online. It aims to put an end to unfair competition between large platforms such as Amazon and independent bookstores.

The single price undermined by shipping costs

Senator LR Laure Darcos’ bill has made all parliamentarians agree. It was adopted by the upper house of Parliament in June, then by the Cultural Affairs Committee of the National Assembly at the end of September and finally by all the 58 deputies who took part in the vote on October 6.

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At the platform of the National Assembly Roselyne Bachelot, Minister of Culture, approved this measure on behalf of the government. She praised the ” support given to our bookstores, to the reestablishment of fair competition in the book market ».

The law aims to restore the reality of the single book price, a measure passed in 1981. A person selling a book must set a price respected by all retailers, with a 5% margin for reduction card type discounts. The message is simple, the book should not be seen as a commercial product like any other.

Problem, with the arrival of online sales services this single price would be more and more abused. Amazon, but also Fnac, Leclerc, Gilbert and others use delivery costs to circumvent the law in force.

They usually cost a small fee, just a dime on Amazon. For the French Bookstore Syndicate, the competition is untenable. An independent bookstore without the logistics of a large platform has a shipping cost that is difficult to reduce. The union estimates it between 6.50 euros and 7 euros.

Amazon employees work in a warehouse.

Independent booksellers helpless in the face of the logistics of large platforms. Image: Amazon

Booksellers are forced to cut corners or scare the public away with crippling postage. A choice ” Cornelian and deadly ”According to the rapporteur of the Committee on Cultural Affairs at the National Assembly, Geraldine Bannier. Home shipping accounts for around 20% of books sold, a significant market that thus escapes booksellers.

A risk for the general public’s access to books?

By setting a floor price on delivery, the objective is to make independent bookstores more competitive in this segment of the market. Géraldine Bannier also mentions the possibility of promoting click and collect, not affected by the floor price, or the movement of consumers to local shops.

However, the rapporteur admits that this “ measurement is a real gamble “. She notes that ” everything will depend on the price that the regulatory power will define: too low, it would not help bookstores and could not modify the market; too high, it would encourage a transfer to the physical market, but at the cost, no doubt, of a deadweight loss for the entire sector ».

Within two years from the implementation of the text, the government will be responsible for submitting to Parliament a detailed report on the actual effect of the measure. It will be a question of ensuring the effects of the law on the book market, the retailer network and especially the access of the general public to the purchase of books.

A note of hope for the success of the measure, The world recalls that when the State took charge of the delivery costs of bookstores in November and December 2020, due to the pandemic, online sales of the latter were multiplied by five.

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