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.


Are robots ever going to replace doctors? Experts say ‘no’

Updated 23 January 2020

Are robots ever going to replace doctors? Experts say ‘no’

  • The panel addressed the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the medical field

DUBAI: The growing use of technology in the healthcare industry will continue to expand but should not take over from the primary care provided  by doctors and nurses, a panel of health experts said in a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum on Thursday.

The panel addressed the role of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in the medical field, agreeing that all care should remain focused on the needs of the patient, adding that “robots can’t replace doctors.”

But Leif Johansson, chairman of the board at pharmaceutical company, AstraZeneca AB, said the technology would be especially essential to “screening programs and extending access to care.”

“The only way to support primary care centers with low-skilled people, for screening purposes, will be with AI, robotics,” he explained, citing India as an example of a country with a shortage of qualified doctors who can address the needs of a massive population.

While technology presents potential benefits to the industry, Lisa Sanders, Associate Professor at the Yale Medical School, said she was concerned current technology faced a “barrier in data input.”

“How is AI or the robot going to get the data they need from patients?” Sanders, the doctor who was the inspiration behind the hit US TV show “House,” said, questioning how technology “would be able to assess patients when they’re complex and confused.”

Jodi Halpern, a professor of bioethics, shared the same sentiment, and highlighted what she described as three important situations when “a relationship with an actual human doctor makes a difference for effective healthcare.”

One was taking medical history from patients, Halpern said, explaining most patients would only disclose personal information when there’s empathy from doctors.

“If we don't get a good history, we won't get a good treatment," she added.

Another was ensuring patients take medication, and lastly was helping people deal with bad news.

Sanders, a physician herself, said “it’s not the thinking” that doctors need help from technology for, but "other things like dealing with poorly conceived systems of medical records."