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Amazon has just neatly demonstrated how dumb it is for governments to try to constrain free markets and pursue ideological vendettas against particular companies. Of course, the French government may be more thick-skinned than most on those counts, but then Amazon has shown some chutzpah in both standing up to them and exposing them to public ridicule. The issue, unsurprisingly, is France’s much-touted anti-Amazon law, designed to stop the vile Americains from defiling French culture by shipping books free of charge. After all the big machines of French legislation put to work to bring Amazon to heel, all the soundbites and column inches devoted to the new law, all the political reputations yoked to it, know what happened? The moment it was on the statute book, Amazon sidestepped it. Amazon France’s announcement on the topic, translated, reads as follows:

A new law forbids us to continue to offer you 5 percent discount and free shipping in France for your book orders. However, you probably want to exercise your desire to have access to the widest offers, quickly delivered where you live, and at the best price. We think you’re right. That is why we have decided to maintain free shipping for books shipped by Amazon for all clients subscribed to Amazon Prime program. For our customers do not subscribe to Amazon Prime program, we have set the shipping costs to the minimum permitted by law, or just 1 cent [Euro] per order containing books and shipped by Amazon.

Amazon France did concede on the same help page that it could no longer offer a 5 percent discount on books. But it really remains to be seen how much that will hurt its business, or help its local competitors. Of course, there’s nothing to stop the French government going through the same laborious procedure to float another law for Amazon to sidestep. Could they be so stupid after this fiasco? Well …

 
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