Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Bad News for French Book Lovers


  1. When will countries like France figure out that price controls are bad for the economy and totally unfair to the consumer? Probably not for a long time, if the ludicrous assaults on Amazon.com and eBay are any indication of the economic wisdom of those in charge there. European consumers suffer greatly from this kind of thinking, and that's a real shame.

Amazon.com may not offer free delivery on books in France, the high court in Versailles has ruled.

Retail prices, particularly of books, are tightly regulated in France.

Using "loss-leaders," or selling products below cost to attract customers, is illegal. Other restrictions apply to books retailers must not offer discounts of more than 5 percent on the publisher's recommended price. Many independent booksellers choose to offer this discount in the form of a loyalty bonus based on previous purchases. Larger booksellers simply slash the sticker price of books.

But the free delivery offered by Amazon exceeded the legal limit in the case of cheaper books, the union charged.

The union said it was pleased with the court's ruling, which would help protect vulnerable small bookshops from predatory pricing practices.
This New York Times article has the rest of the details, including the case brought against eBay.

9 comments:

  1. Bizarre. I'd rather they just made sure workers were paid a living wage and then let their employers decide how much to sell their wares for. Small bookshops are no more sacrosant than cottage weavers were when machine looms were invented. Obviously business needs to be watched to prevent and redress abuses, but doing more than that is questionable.

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  2. Sylvia, I agree with you except for the "living wage" part. I say pay them what the market will bear. I'm not sure what sort of value a bookstore worker could add to my shopping experience to make their work worth any more than minimum wage. If they want to make more than that, then they should get skills that qualify them for more lucrative jobs.

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  3. In these days of Amazon, McDonald's, etc., I forget just how 'foreign' foreign countries can be. I'm all for supporting small businesses, but not at the expense of the end consumer. Whether it be price control or wage control.

    The bookstore union over there must have quite a 'lobbying' force.

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  4. (Argh! Blogger ate my comment! I try again...)

    I suppose, but let's not forget that "workers" and "consumers" are the same people. Or at least they should be, if we believe in fairness. Otherwise we should stop pretending and go back to the class system.

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  5. Interesting comments, guys. I'm a free market believer and I think that the reason that the EU will ultimately fail is that governments there refuse to let the market work. Price controls are a terrible mistake, one so obvious that I can't believe that anything other than a communist or socialist economy would even try it...and, yes, I hate price supports also, such as farm subsidies and the like.

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  6. Monopoly, the game, is a free market, and we all know how that always ends up! Markets must be regulated to some extent to prevent exploitation and suffering. Just look at the world--the countries with the most regulations have the best living conditions, whereas the ones with weak governments and little or no taxation are undemocratic hellholes. Regulation puts a lid on the worst of human greed (and desperation) and makes things better for everyone. If it means that those at the top can only buy one Hummer and not two, I won't be too upset, and neither should they be if they have any sense.

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  7. Sylvia, I certainly agree that there is plenty of room for government regulation in the business world...just to keep everyone honest. But, IMO, tinkering with the laws of supply and demand is a losing proposition for all involved.

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  8. Interestingly, last night I watched a program that described how officials let millions of people in Ireland (including some of my ancestors) and India starve to death during the 19th century in the name of "free trade." Food was being exported from these countries rather than being sold domestically for fear of "artificially" depressing prices. To me that's just hideous.

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  9. That was simply criminal, Sylvia, and it's one of those cases where government intervention is justifiable if business people are unwilling to do the right thing. I agree with you on this one, but it doesn't change my overall feeling that the laws of supply and demand are not to be tinkered with just for the sake of price supports or producing "living wages."

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