Amazon is under fire in France, where a number of elected officials, union leaders and NGOs have petitioned to boycott the U.S. company for Christmas. Critics accuse the technology giant of taking advantage of COVID lockdowns and of engaging in unfair competition with small shop owners. The company says it is generating many jobs in France.
“Dear Santa Claus, this year, we commit to celebrate Christmas without Amazon” - that is the beginning of a petition that has been signed by almost 25,000 people in France as of Thursday.
The mayor of Paris, Greenpeace, and some famous French writers have all added their names to the petition.
Critics accuse the U.S. company of tax evasion, social dumping and not being environmentally friendly. Among their biggest complaints is that Amazon continues to operate and make huge profits amid the pandemic while local shop owners remain closed due to the health restrictions in France.
Matthieu Orphelin is the French lawmaker who initiated the call to boycott Amazon for Christmas.
“We invite people, not only to ban Amazon, but mainly to favor the purchase of their Christmas gifts from local merchants," Orphelin said. "All around the world, Amazon is killing the local economy thanks to their aggressive business model. We do not fight against innovation, but we want to protect our welfare state, our planet, our local economy from predators like Amazon.”
Labeled as non-essential, gift shops and many others are in distress. Small businesses fear they might not recover from the second lockdown and blame what they say is unfair competition from Amazon.
Francis Palombi is the head of the French federation of small retailers.
He says Amazon has been accumulating sales over the past months in France while small shops remain closed for a second time due to the pandemic. Palombi demands that all small businesses that currently work with Amazon to stop to prevent them from being “robbed” as he described it. He wants French customers to buy in local shops for Christmas, not only on Amazon.
The online retail giant has seen a sales boost in the range of 40 to 50 percent according to Fredric Duval, director of Amazon in France. Duval went on French public radio recently to rebuke those who he suggests are using the U.S company as a scapegoat.
Duval says he regrets that opponents describe Amazon as the villain while the American company has developed business in France and has invested nine-point-two billion euros – or roughly $11 billion - in the country since 2010. Duval also says that Amazon creates direct and indirect jobs and as of now, 130,000 people in France work thanks to Amazon.
Under COVID guidelines, small shops may reopen on December 1st, according to tentative, unconfirmed plans by the French government. President Emmanuel Macron is due to speak in the coming days to confirm whether the government plans lift the lockdown.