Amazon E-Books Eyed in EU Antitrust Probe

     (CN) – The European Commission has launched an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s e-book distribution contracts with publishers amid concerns the deals stifle competition, regulators said Thursday.
     Investigators will be looking into whether clauses in Amazon’s contracts with publishers make it more difficult for other e-book retailers to compete with the Seattle-based giant – potentially reducing choice and increasing prices for consumers, the regulatory agency said.
     The investigation will focus on publishers’ contractual obligation to notify Amazon when competitors offer new or more favorable terms to the publishers, as well as Amazon’s contractual demand that it receive as good or better terms from publishers as are offered to its competitors.
     “Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for e-books. Our investigation does not call that into question,” said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “However, it is my duty to make sure that Amazon’s arrangements with publishers are not harmful to consumers, by preventing other e-book distributors from innovating and competing effectively with Amazon. Our investigation will show if such concerns are justified.”
     The commission has no legal deadline to complete the investigation, which often takes months and even years to complete.
     Regulators noted this is not the first time they’ve investigated the e-book sector. In 2011, the commission launched an antitrust investigation into whether Apple had colluded with five international publishing houses to raise the price of e-books in the EU following Apple’s release of the iPad and opening of the iBookstore.
     The parties involved in that investigation eventually settled with the commission in 2012 and 2013, regulators said.

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