Things continue to look rather topsy turvy, don't they? This time there's general bewilderment about the government's decisions regarding financial affairs...
I was interested, then, to see how the French government has responded to unfair practices in one sector of business there, ensuring a level playing field for the high street and e-commerce in the book trade.
Companies like Amazon have been offering free delivery on books for years and when the government stepped in six years ago to prevent this, the online firms applied a legal loophole and made a nominal charge of just one cent instead.
While these vast businesses can absorb postage costs to attract customers, the high street stores with smaller margins and additional expenses have to pass on these fees and are therefore not competitive. The government has subsequently proposed a fixed fee of three euros for all deliveries of orders under the price of E35.
This initiative is part of the French “cultural exceptionalism”, which has sought "to shield books and independent booksellers from the ravages of free-market forces," according to a report in the Guardian.
The French government also ensures that all booksellers, whether chains or independents on the high street or the online retailers, have to sell books at the prices set by the publishers. "It has helped preserve France’s 3,500 independent bookshops – more than three times the number in the UK – which account for 12,000 jobs."
It is encouraging to see the book trade and the high street being valued in this way, with such practical and effective action taken. And it's a valuable reminder of the importance of paying a fair price to ensure staff are looked after, taxes are paid and we retain vibrant communities through our high streets.
As France waits for the law to be approved by the EU, I wonder if this example might be followed elsewhere?
Thank you for reading.