If You Can’t Beat Them, Outlaw Them …
We have previously reported on the French obsession with stifling competition to the vast detriment of the consumer, so as to protect established businesses with all sorts of legal restrictions. A prime example of this nonsense is that the French have made free shipping by Amazon illegal in France (as discussed by Mish here). Mercantilism has never died in France, and today it is imposed under the guise of the so-called “cultural exception”, which ostensibly aims to “protect French culture” (see “France Threatens Trade Talks Over Cultural Exception” for details on this). There is much about French culture that is indeed admirable and admired the world over – and it obviously doesn’t require bureaucratic “protection”. That is a turn-off at best.
So we are not surprised to learn that the French government is in ever greater hysterics over the success of US based internet companies. “There ought to be a law”, and very likely there will be a law – French consumers and their preferences be damned. A recent article at Yahoo reports on “One country’s desperate battle to erase Google, Netflix and Uber from existence”:
“The French don’t play. Ever since Minitel bit dust, the continental power has been hopping mad about American domination of Internet services. And over the past weeks, attacks on U.S. giants have escalated from Paris to Lille.
Netflix is right now in the middle of an ambitious European expansion drive that started in Scandinavia and is fanning out south. Sure enough, France’s Association for the Protection of Consumers and Users has now sued Netflix for “malicious and illegal clauses.” These include changing the terms of contract without informing consumers, not offering information of guaranteed minimum quality and writing contract clauses in English.
No doubt this is only the opening salvo against Netflix in France, which guards its cultural heritage jealously. The U.S. streaming service tried to preempt Gallic criticism by financing a political drama series called Marseilles, but this appears to have been ineffective.
Uber’s French launch has been, if anything, more controversial than the Netflix debut. Infuriated taxi drivers in Lille have attacked a student for trying to enter an Uber car, first attempting to block her from opening the car door, then allegedly throwing a bottle at her head. The Uber POP service is about 20% cheaper than French taxis.
The French legal attacks on Google are too numerous to list here but the latest one actually has an entirely novel twist. France is now threatening Google with a hefty, €1,000 penalty for every defamatory link the company fails to remove from its global network of Google subsidiaries.
Google agreed earlier this year in Europe to remove links to articles that may be considered “outdated and inflammatory” — in other words, Europeans can demand removal of old search results that they consider embarrassing. But the new penalty scheme essentially holds the French subsidiary of Google responsible for the actions of its sister and parent entities. This in turn means that the French are attempting to make their legislative decisions global.
What to make of all these recent moves against some of America’s most successful corporations? They seem to indicate that France has no intention of trying to emulate the American model and foster growth of its own IT industry — instead, the country seems to be sliding towards perpetual guerrilla war against foreign tech powers. It is hard to overemphasize just how futile this bitter battle against the future looks to foreign observers.”
We should perhaps point out here that to some extent, this is blow-back. The US government was the first entity trying to enact domestic laws with a global reach, such as the FATCA act, which will cost an order of magnitude more to enforce than it can possibly ever create in additional tax revenue. However, this was never the aim of implementing such laws in the first place. The real aim is total control over the citizenry.
So now the French are also trying to imbue their laws with a global reach. Obviously, the internet is a global phenomenon, and it will be very difficult to keep French citizens from doing things that are “prohibited”, such as finding out about past transgression that are “embarrassing” to members of the neo-feudal ruling elite and can now be erased – interestingly under the guise of “protecting privacy” (which is utterly ridiculous considering the by now well-known ubiquitous surveillance activities of the so-called “security apparatus”).
Netflix tried to win over the French bureaucrats with an original series – apparently to no avail
(Screenshot via bidnessetc.com)
As we already noted in connection with the EU’s attempt to “break up Google”, these examples of protectionism are especially farcical, as there is not even anything to protect. Where is the European Google, or the European Netflix? No such company exists! Such globally successful companies in fact can hardly be expected to come into existence in Europe, precisely because of the Mercantilistic attitude of many EU member countries, and their onerous regulation and taxation regimes.
If France wanted to see viable European competition for US internet companies arise, it would need to adopt free market principles. As the writer of the article quoted above points out, it looks instead more and more like all they want is waging a “perpetual guerrilla war against foreign tech powers in a futile and bitter battle against the future.”
French taxi drivers in protest against “unfair competition”. Maybe they should try improving their customer service instead?
(Photo credit: AFP / ANNE-CHRISTINE POUJOULAT)