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From Antitrust Law Daily, June 11, 2015

EC investigation of Amazon's e-book distribution arrangements announced

By Jody Coultas, J.D.

The European Commission (EC) has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon's e-book distribution contracts with publishers that may violate European Union antitrust rules that prohibit abuses of a dominant market position and restrictive business practices.

Amazon is the largest distributor of e-books in Europe. Initially, the Commission's investigation will focus on the largest markets for e-books in the European Economic Area, namely e-books in English and German.

The investigation will focus on clauses granting Amazon the right to be informed of more favorable or alternative terms offered to its competitors; and/or the right to terms and conditions at least as good as those offered to its competitors. The EC will investigate whether such clauses hinder the level playing field and potentially decrease competition between e-book distributors to the detriment of consumers.

Previously, the EC investigated Apple and international publishing houses HachetteLivre, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, and Verlagsgruppe Georgvon Holzbrinck for collusion to limit retail price competition for e-books. To resolve the investigation, Apple and publishers entered in an agreement that would terminate their present agency agreements, impose a bar on new agreements containing “most favored nation” clauses, and prohibit them from preventing e-book retailers from setting their own prices for the books or from offering discounts on them. The EC was satisfied that the commitments remedied the competition concerns it had identified.

Companies: Amazon.com, Inc.; Apple Inc.; Hachette Book Group Inc.; HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C.; Simon & Schuster Inc.; Penguin Random House; Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC.

MainStory: TopStory Antitrust

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