French ban on free delivery of books slammed

A FRENCH bill which aims to ban online retailers from offering free delivery on discounted books was criticised as protectionism yesterday, after passing through the Senate.

The lower house also approved the legislation in October last year, but will have one more opportunity to vote on the proposal, after the Senate agreed to it last week. The bill will then come into effect if approved.

“This move exemplified a particular approach to business climate and regulation. There’s a significant amount of protectionism. It’s an ongoing thing,” said Raoul Ruparel, think tank Open Europe’s head of economic research.

“It’s another step along the same road, linking to things like the attempted protection of the French film industry in European trade talks with the US. Italy has gone down a protectionist route with things like this, and it’s not an example to follow.”

France already has strictures on how much of a discount can be offered on books. A 1981 law means that publishers set a price for their books. After the price is set, retailers cannot offer more than a five per cent discount.

The legislation enjoys widespread political support among French politicians. Despite being proposed by a member of the centre-right UMP, it is also backed by President Francois Hollande’s socialist party.

On the situation for the business climate in France generally, Berenberg senior economist Christian Schulz commented: “For France pressure is coming from almost everywhere.” French business surveys suggest the country’s third recession since the crisis may be on the cards.

Schulz added that current reforms are “not nearly enough to stop France’s slide relative to its neighbours”.