International online book seller Amazon has snubbed a French law banning it from offering free deliveries in France – by charging customers a paltry one euro cent for books dispatched to their homes.
France's parliament last month voted a law aimed at supporting small bookshops, banning online giants such as Amazon, and others including French retailer FNAC, from delivering books free of charge.
The law, which came into force this week, allows retailers to set discounts of up to five percent, the maximum allowed under existing French legislation.
In its "Frequently Asked Questions" section, Amazon's French site says that since the July 8 law, "We are unfortunately no longer allowed to offer free deliveries for book orders."
"We have therefore fixed delivery costs at one centime per order containing books and dispatched by Amazon to systematically guarantee the lowest price for your book orders."
While the law is not specifically aimed at Amazon, Culture Minister Aurelie Filippetti has singled out the US giant's practices in the past, attacking it for its "dumping strategy" and for selling books at a loss.
"Once they are in a dominant position and will have crushed our network of bookshops, they will bring prices back up," she forecast last year.
France is proud of a network of bookstores it says is "unique in the world" and crucial for culture to reach small towns.
These outlets are fiercely protected by French law. Since 1981, discounts of more than five percent off the cover price of new books have been banned, a measure aimed at preventing large chains from engaging in aggressive price wars with their smaller rivals.
The country has about 3,500 book shops – including 600 to 800 independent retailers that do not belong to a publishing house, a chain or a supermarket – compared to just 1,000 in the UK.
Nevertheless, book sales in France have slumped, with a 4.5 percent drop in 2012 compared to the previous year, according to government figures.
Data also showed that 17 percent of all book purchases in France were now made online, and that figure was growing. In 2003, it was just 3.2 percent.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)