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FRANCE – ECONOMY

French campaigners launch petition calling for Christmas boycott of Amazon

US company Amazon came into the crosshairs of a French petition on Tuesday that accused the web giant of unfairly profiting from the Covid-19 epidemic, at the expense of small businesses forced to close shop due to health restrictions.
US company Amazon came into the crosshairs of a French petition on Tuesday that accused the web giant of unfairly profiting from the Covid-19 epidemic, at the expense of small businesses forced to close shop due to health restrictions. AFP/File
4 min

French left-wing politicians, NGOs and trade unions have supported a petition against American distribution giant Amazon, which they accuse of unfairly profiting from the Covid-19 restrictions that have threatened small business and thousands of jobs.

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The petition, calling for participants to forego holiday shopping on the US web giant’s platform in favour of local business, gathered several thousand signatures within hours of its launch on Tuesday.

Backed by Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and former Environment Minister Delphine Batho, the petition, #NoëlSansAmazon (Christmas Without Amazon), claims the major web companies have unfairly benefitted from the social and economic crises generated by the Covid pandemic.

“The health crisis has had dramatic consequences in France. Thousands of jobs have disappeared, unemployment has attained 9 percent and a million people have fallen into poverty,” the petition reads, in reference to charities reporting rising precariousness due to the Covid-19 crisis.

“This unprecedented situation is the direct consequence of our globalised modes of production and disproportionate consumption of natural resources,” it continues, calling for laws “that put an end to unfair competition and fiscal injustice between the digital giants and physical local businesses”.

Apart from Hidalgo and Batho, the petition has been signed by several MPs, members of the Socialist Party, the EELV Green party, the France Unbowed movement and other political groups. 

“It’s not just a call to avoid ordering on Amazon, it’s also a positive petition to benefit local businesses and a more sustainable online commerce,” the petition’s creator, Matthieu Orphelin, an MP formerly of President Emmanuel Macron’s Republic on the Move party, told the French AFP news agency. 

Amazon ‘the big winner’ of pandemic

Many of the first signatories were among 120 politicians and representatives of NGOs and trade unions who signed a letter on Monday calling for broadened taxation and stricter regulation of Amazon.

“Online commercial giant Amazon appears to be the big winner of the crisis” provoked by the Covid pandemic, the letter reads.

“Since the start of 2020, its sales have exploded and the fortune of [CEO] Jeff Bezos has climbed above 200 billion dollars.”

Amazon has long been criticised for benefitting from a fiscal status that allows it to pay minimal taxes on earnings in France and other countries in which it operates.

The letter proposes imposing an “exceptional tax” on sales by Amazon and “other profiteers of the crisis,” with the proceeds being used to “finance measures of preservation of jobs and a solidarity fund for local businesses”.

Targeting Black Friday

The call comes as small and local businesses protest another Covid-19 confinement that has seen them excluded from a list of essential services, which generally allows leeway for larger retailers and especially online giants to continue operations.

Campaigners said they wanted to build support for local businesses hurt by successive lockdowns ahead of Black Friday on 27 November, a major US shopping date that has gained popularity among French retailers and marketers.

Critics also blamed Emmanuel Macron’s administration for creating a situation that has benefitted large companies at the expense of small businesses, accusing the president of “rolling out the red carpet” by “forbidding everyone to sell non-essential products except web giants”.

French and European attempts to regulate the activities of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple have been contentious in transatlantic relations, and observers suspect they will continue to be so, even as the tone of relations improves after the transition from Donald Trump to Joe Biden.

Amazon France did not respond to a request for comment on the petition in time for the publication of this article.

The company has previously claimed to have created 9,300 jobs over 10 years and told Le Parisien newspaper it supports 11,000 French small businesses by allowing them to trade on its platform.

Matthieu Orphelin argues that for every job created by Amazon, between 2 and 5 jobs are lost elsewhere in France. The MP also says French businesses represent only about 5 percent of those active on Amazon’s French site.

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