European antipathy towards American technology giants has been at a slow boil for a couple of years and Amazon is facing growing backlash this winter as a result. Germany’s powerful trade union Verdi is now threatening to strike during the crucial shopping season unless Amazon raises wages. Der Spiegel gets an ominous quote from a Verdi representative: “If I were Amazon I would not rely on being able to make all deliveries to customers on time before Christmas.”
In France, the situation is even worse. The French parliament has voted for a draconian law banning combining online book discounts with free shipping, thus effectively defanging Amazon. Discounts had already been limited to -5%.
Amazon dominates the French online book sales with 70% market share. The company’s bête noir in Europe is France’s finance minister, Aurelie Filipetti, who has been patiently assembling a series of tools to prevent Amazon from demolishing the French independent book store scene. Ms. Filipetti has also started gunning for Google, demanding that Google pay French news organizations for the material it displays on the virtual pages of Google News.
“Laissez-faire” may be French, but it’s not something the country is willing to employ when it comes to protecting its cultural heritage. However, Amazon is not taking the French assault lying down — this week, the company decided to ban sales of foie gras in the UK, one of the biggest export markets for this French delicacy. It is a canny bit of psychological warfar striking at the very core of Frenchness. We must now wait for Ms. Filipetti’s countermeasure.