France attacks Amazon ‘destroyer of bookshops’

France’s culture minister has branded online retailer Amazon a “destroyer” of bookshops in the latest confrontation between the Socialist government in Paris and America’s giants of the digital economy.

“Today, everyone has had enough of Amazon, which, by dumping, slashes prices to get a foothold in markets only to raise them once they have established a virtual monopoly,” Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti said.

“It is destructive for bookshops,” the minister told a conference of booksellers Monday in the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

Filippetti said that she would be examining measures that could curb Amazon’s growth in France by restricting the American giant’s ability to combine offers of free deliveries with discounts of up to five percent on cover prices, which is the maximum allowed in France under existing legislation designed to protect small booksellers.

The attack on Amazon is the latest in a series of disputes between the French government and American companies including Google, Yahoo! and Apple.

French authorities are already embroiled in a dispute with Amazon over a $252 million tax bill related to the company’s sales in France between 2006 and 2010.

The dispute arose because of Amazon’s practice of reporting European sales through a Luxembourg-based holding company, taking advantage of the tiny Duchy’s relatively low corporation tax rates for earnings outside its borders.

Amazon insists the arrangement, which has been criticised by politicians across Europe, is legal under the European Union’s single market rules.

Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg last month also infuriated Yahoo! by placing a series of conditions on its proposed takeover of French video-sharing site Dailymotion, causing the deal to collapse.

France is meanwhile at loggerheads with Google over privacy issues and over demands that it pass on part of its advertising revenues to newspapers and other content providers that the search engine links to.

The Paris government has also clashed with Apple and other hi-tech manufacturers over proposals to tax smartphones and tablets to fund French-language creative and artistic projects. – AFP