Amazon and Apple will now allow third-party audiobook sales in EU

20 Jan 2017

Headphones on books. Image: alexkich/Shutterstock

In one of the few concessions from major tech companies to the EU, both Amazon and Apple have agreed to end its exclusivity obligations in the supply and selling of audiobooks through Audible.

Amazon and Apple – and many of the other major US tech companies – have found themselves in front of the European Commission (EC) a number of times over the past few years regarding accusations of unfairly dominated various markets.

One area in particular that caught the attention of the EC was the deal between Apple and Amazon that meant the pair ran the two largest distributors of audiobooks in the world, with no room for any smaller third-party operations to compete.

According to Reuters, even prior to Amazon’s purchase of Audible in 2008, Apple had agreed to exclusivity obligations with Audible, whereby it could only source audiobooks from the company and was banned from supplying to other platforms.

Now in a landmark ruling, the pair announced that this agreement has been annulled and the sale of audiobooks will be opened up to third-party sellers within the EU.

The decision was agreed earlier this month following talks between the EC and the German Federal Cartel Office, largely due to the country’s publishers being the ones to bring the case to the EC.

Held 90pc of the German audiobook market

In a statement, the EC said: “The EC welcomes an agreement to end all exclusivity obligations concerning audiobook supply and distribution between Amazon’s subsidiary Audible and Apple.

“This step is likely to improve competition in downloadable audiobook distribution in Europe.”

Similarly, the German cartel office’s president Andreas Mundt said that with the deletion of the exclusivity agreement, Apple “will enable a wider range of offers and lower prices for consumers”.

The case against Apple and Amazon began in November of 2015 following a complaint from the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, which said more than 90pc of audiobook downloads in Germany came from either Audible or iTunes.

With such a high percentage of the market, the group said, it amounted to an abuse of power by Amazon and Apple.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic