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.


Fear of food shortages after Beirut explosion hits grain reserves

Updated 06 August 2020

Fear of food shortages after Beirut explosion hits grain reserves

  • Beirut port silos had capacity for 120,000 tons

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s main grain silo at Beirut port was destroyed in a blast, leaving the nation with less than a month’s reserves of grain but enough flour to avoid a crisis, the economy minister said on Wednesday.

Raoul Nehme told Reuters a day after Tuesday’s devastating explosion that Lebanon needed reserves for at least three months to ensure food security and was looking at other storage areas.

The explosion was the most powerful ever to rip through Beirut, a city torn apart by civil war three decades ago. The economy was already in meltdown before the blast, slowing grain imports as the nation struggled to find hard currency for purchases.

“There is no bread or flour crisis,” the minister said. “We have enough inventory and boats on their way to cover the needs of Lebanon on the long term.”

He said grain reserves in Lebanon’s remaining silos stood at “a bit less than a month,” but said the destroyed silos had only held 15,000 tons of the grain at the time, much less than capacity which one official put at 120,000 tons.

Beirut’s port district was a mangled wreck, disabling the main entry point for imports to feed a nation of more than 6 million people.

Ahmed Tamer, the director of Tripoli port, Lebanon’s second biggest facility, said his port did not have grain storage but cargoes could be taken to warehouses 2 km (about one mile) away.

Alongside Tripoli, the ports of Saida, Selaata and Jiyeh were also equipped to handle grain, the economy minister said.

“We fear there will be a huge supply chain problem, unless there is an international consensus to save us,” said Hani Bohsali, head of the importers’ syndicate.

UN agencies are meeting on Wednesday to coordinate relief efforts for Beirut, Tamara Al-Rifai, a spokeswoman for the Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, said from Amman. “People are extremely poor, it’s increasingly difficult for anyone to buy food, and the fact that Beirut is the largest port in Lebanon makes it a very bad situation,” she said.

“We are looking at Tripoli, but it is a much smaller port.”

Reserves of flour were sufficient to cover market needs for a month and a half and there were four ships carrying 28,000 tons of wheat heading to Lebanon, Ahmed Hattit, head of the wheat importers union, told Al-Akhbar newspaper.

Lebanon is trying to transfer immediately four vessels carrying 25,000 tons of flour to the port in Tripoli, one official told LBCI news channel.