The French government is close to passing a new law that would limit powerful online retailers like Amazon from offering customers free shipping for their orders.
The new law’s purpose is to lessen the advantage these large online retailers have over smaller brick-and-mortar stores. Some of the movement behind getting the bill passed comes from the over 3,000 independent book sellers within the country, all of which complain that it’s impossible to fight the beast that is Amazon. BBC News also notes that the French government might be trying to dish out some payback to Amazon in particular because the company reports its European profits through a Luxembourg holding company to take advantage of a lower corporate tax rate.
If the law passes, it would be a considerable setback for Amazon’s business within the country. While Amazon does offer a wide selection of low-cost items, a big part of its business strategy involves being able to ship those items for “free” to anyone that signs up for an annual Prime membership. So technically, Amazon doesn’t do completely free shipping, but (if I understand the law correctly), it limits even a discounted rate on whatever the cost would be to ship an item.
The French law might seem harsh, but this hardly out of character for France’s government. In the past, French officials have proposed an odd culture tax for companies like Google and Apple, killed Yahoo’s purchase Dailymotion because it didn’t want it sold to an American company, fined Google over a breach of privacy due to Maps, tried to force Google to pay royalties to local news publications for featuring links to their websites within Google News, and probably some other things I’m leaving out.