France fines Amazon $4.4 million over marketplace clauses

The logo of Amazon is seen at their new warehouse during its opening announcement on the outskirts of Mexico City, Mexico July 30, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 05 September 2019

France fines Amazon $4.4 million over marketplace clauses

  • Online marketplaces like Amazon have been a boon for small and midsize French firms, in particular for finding new export markets

PARIS: A French court has fined the US retailing giant Amazon $4.4 million (€4 million) over terms of use deemed unfair for companies using its online marketplace to sell their goods.
“It’s a record fine” for a suit involving abusive commercial clauses, Loic Tanguy, a director at the DGCCRF, France’s consumer and anti-fraud watchdog, told AFP on Wednesday.
The agency filed its lawsuit in 2017 after a two-year investigation into third-party vendor platforms, which found several clauses potentially unfair to the 10,000 small and midsize French companies selling on Amazon.
They gave Amazon the power to modify contracts at a moment’s notice, demand shorter delivery times or block deliveries while demanding additional corporate information from vendors.
Tanguy said Amazon was the only online vendor who refused to modify its terms of use after the investigation.
Despite the obvious advantages for companies using Amazon, Tanguy said, the “asymmetrical balance of power” must not force vendors to accept unfair terms of use.
In its ruling, first reported by a French online news site Tuesday, the court found the contested clauses “manifestly unbalanced” and ordered Amazon to change them within six months.
It said Amazon’s marketplace generated around 60 percent of the company’s five billion euros of Amazon’s total French sales.
“The court ruled on a limited number of clauses, most of which were already updated earlier this year,” Amazon France told AFP late Tuesday.
Online marketplaces like Amazon have been a boon for small and midsize French firms, in particular for finding new export markets, with their total foreign sales rising to 350 million euros last year, according to the DGCCRF.
“The development of the digital economy is a tremendous opportunity, as long as the big marketplaces respect competition and consumer protection rules,” Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Wednesday on Twitter.


WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Keeping things in balance

Updated 08 December 2019

WEEKLY ENERGY RECAP: Keeping things in balance

  • The over-compliance will result in cuts of 1.7 million bpd

Brent crude rose above $64 per barrel after OPEC+ producers unanimously agreed to deepen output cuts by 503,000 barrels per day (bpd) to a total 1.7 million bpd till the end of the first quarter of 2020.

The breakdown is that OPEC producers are due to cut 372,000 bpd and non-OPEC producers to cut 131,000 bpd.

Current market dynamics led to this decision as oil price-positive news outweighed more bearish developments in the US-China trade narrative that has weighed on oil prices throughout the year, with US crude exports rising to a record 3.4 million bpd in October versus 3.1 million bpd in September.

OPEC November crude oil output levels at 29.8 million bpd show that producers were already overcomplying with its current 1.2 million bpd output cuts deal by around 400,000 bpd. 

The over-compliance will result in cuts of 1.7 million bpd, especially when Saudi Arabia continues to voluntarily cut more than its share.

This makes the agreed 1.7 million bpd output cuts pragmatic since it won’t taken any barrels out of the market.

It isn’t a matter of OPEC making room in the market for other additional supplies from non-OPEC sources, as OPEC barrels can’t be easily replaced.

Instead, this is about avoiding any oversupply that might damage the global supply-demand balance.

Saudi energy minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman has effectively kept his promise and managed to smoothly forge a consensus among OPEC and non-OPEC producers.

He has also successfully managed the 24-country coalition of OPEC+ including Russia in reaching an agreement.

Despite suggestions otherwise in recent coverage of the Vienna meeting, the deeper cuts announced on Friday have nothing to do with the Aramco IPO. Let’s remember this meeting was scheduled six months ago and the IPO has been in the works for much longer.

The Aramco share sale did not target a specific oil price. If that was a motivating factor it could easily have chosen another time.