I read in ze news that the French Senate has unanimously passed a bill that says online booksellers (read: Amazon) can offer consumers either a 5% discount or free shipping, but not both.
My first reaction was, "Why would the French government not want their constituents to get the best deal they could?" Why, that's just downright un-American! Umm....wait....
But then I realized they're just trying to keep the smaller booksellers from going out of business. They're just trying to save jobs. Hmmm...
But....but....free enterprise....the market....
It's a real conundrum for sure. Of course entrepreneurs should be encouraged to bring their new ideas to market. What if the old school had tried to stifle Thomas Edison or Henry Ford or Steve Jobs? But at some point you have to wonder how far this should go.
It's one thing to keep the competition on their toes, but if pricing becomes so predatory (prices so low, sometimes at or even below cost....at least until they get a near-monopoly) they force the smaller competitors out of business entirely, is this really in the consumers best interest?
I think we're now seeing that airline consolidation in America is going to work against the consumer. (Check fares on the "low cost" carriers. They're not so low any more.) It will be great for the airlines and their stockholders, but consumers will pay more.
And now that just 5 big banks control the majority of the banking biz, do you see yourself getting better service or lower fees? When is the last time you got a free toaster from a hungry bank wanting to gain market share? Their attitudes sure changed, didn't they?
Major appliance manufacturers are worried, too. That's why, contrary to popular opinion, the big box retailers (Home Depot, Lowe's) do NOT get better wholesale pricing than the mid-sized retailers. They know that if the big boxes get better pricing and put the smaller guys out of business, then the 2 boxes will in effect "own" the manufacturers. The manufacturers don't want to lose control.
So more competition is good. The government should just butt out and let the market do it's thing. And less competition is bad. The government should step in and make sure the big don't get too big. (Don't kid yourself. Our anti-monopoly regulators are not at all pro-active.)
DOH! See, conundrum. We don't live in a black or white world anymore. Think about it.