FEP probes Amazon pressure throughout Europe

FEP probes Amazon pressure throughout Europe

The Federation of European Publishers (FEP) is surveying its 28 members to assess whether they are all coming under similar commercial pressure from Amazon to that suffered by Hachette Book Group in the US and publishers in Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.

“We hope to announce the results of our enquiry in early September and call for any action that needs to be taken,” new FEP president Pierre Dutilleul told The Bookseller.

“We obviously have to be careful about not infringing antitrust law, but this has not deterred the Borensverein in Germany from filing a complaint against Amazon for abuse of dominance,” added Dutilleul, who is also external relations director of Editis, the second largest French publisher.

France has no plans for the moment to follow Germany’s example in filing a complaint against Amazon, several officials said. “Government and parliamentary backing for the book industry is stronger here than in any other European country,” Dutilleul said.

At the moment, Amazon is exerting more pressure on French distributors than publishers, according to Vincent Montagne, president of the French Publishers Association (Syndicat National de l’Edition, SNE). Demands, which have been growing since the beginning of the year, include fines for late deliveries and are asymmetrical among operators, he said.

They were speaking just after after the French parliament finally passed a law unanimously banning free delivery of books covered by the 1981 fixed price law. The target of the bill is Amazon, which Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti and book professionals have repeatedly accused of dumping through tax evasion and unfair competition to other booksellers by combining the maximum allowed price discount of 5% with free book deliveries for no minimum order.

Welcoming the law, Filippetti said in an interview with the French economic daily Les Echos that independant booksellers were becoming increasing fragile, and needed to be protected from unfair competition. She reiterated her support for Hachette in its standoff with Amazon, and said that such contractual demands by the US group must not be allowed to develop in Europe.

"This is a great day for booksellers," commented Matthieu de Montchalin, president of the French Booksellers Association (Syndicat de la Librairie Française, SLF). Although the law does not settle everything, because the European Commission still has reserves, it “shows the limits of deregulation, and is a victory for the French cultural exception,” he added.

The FEP is made up of 28 member states from across Europe, including the Publishers Association in the UK, and bodies from France, Germany, Italy and Spain.