French culture minister Frédéric Mitterrand has called for the European Union to regulate e-book prices as soon as possible, and to introduce a reduced rate of VAT on all cultural goods and services, whether they are sold online or through bricks and mortar outlets.
Mitterrand, who is in Budapest attending an informal meeting of EU cultural ministers, urged a Europe-wide debate on e-book prices, and said a "rapid regulation [of them] is indispensable".
A bill to allow publishers to fix e-book prices is on its way through French parliament, despite objections from the European Commission. EC competition officials conducted dawn raids on five French publishers at the beginning of the month on suspicion of forming a cartel to drive up digital book prices through agency pricing.
In a statement released today [29th March], Mitterrand said he was backed by Germany and Poland on the VAT issue, and stressed the need for the EU to inject more cash into culture through structural funds and other programmes. "In the new digital context, the challenges of competitiveness coexist with the imperative of promoting cultural diversity," he said.