Online retail giant Amazon has closed its sites in France for five days starting today (16 April) with a threat to close its operations in France entirely as a result of a court judgement.
On Tuesday this week, a court in Nanterre to the north-east of Paris ordered the company to limit its activities to the shipping of essential items while an audit was carried out into the safety measures being taken by the company for the protection of its employees.
The court case was brought by trade unions, concerned for the safety of Amazon employees, who the main union SUD said were inadequately protected against the dangers of the coronavirus.
The court rejected a motion by the union to have the company shut down altogether while the audit was carried out, and the necessary safety measures put in place.
But it did order Amazon to restrict itself to sending out only essential items for one month. During the lockdown in France and other countries, including Belgium, the French subsidiary of Amazon has filled the gap left by the closure of most retail businesses.
The company will comply with the court order – which includes paying damages of €4,800 to the SUD – but warned that it could decide to close down Amazon.fr altogether.
“At present, we are continuing to operate in the country, and we are doing everything possible to maintain the level of service expected by our customers in France,” the company said in a statement.
“However, without the possibility of operating our distribution centres in France, we could be forced to limit a service which has become essential for millions of people across the country who want to have access to the products they need at home during this period of crisis.”
The statement talks of France only, but a closure there would severely affect customers in Belgium, where people use the German site or the French site, in the absence of a dedicated Belgian service.
Last month Amazon launched a Dutch site offering some 100 million products. However that site is only available in Dutch for the time being.