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Amazon defies French courts over shipping costs

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Amazon.fr is continuing to pay daily fines rather than comply with a court order which forbids it from offering free shipping for some purchases made from its French website.

The US firm was taken to court by French booksellers in December accused of discounting some books by more than five per cent of list price when free shipping was included. This is in breach of the 1981 Lang Law which aimed to protect bookshops which were under threat from supermarkets offering bestsellers at heavy discounts.

The online bookseller was ordered to charge for shipping and to pay €1,000 a day in fines while it was not doing so. Amazon also had to pay its opponent's costs of €100,000.

Although Amazon.fr says it is sticking to its guns, the court will reconsider its fine after one month.

A French law professor told the International Herald Tribune that Amazon had little chance of success. Cedric Manara told the paper: "There is no way you can read the text to find a different result. And the court would have evidence of the firm's deliberate will to violate the law."

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos sent an email to French Amazon subscribers at the weekend asking people to sign an online petition. But Amazon might be out of luck - the law has been before the European Court of Justice twice and been upheld on both occasions. ®

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