EC issues antitrust suit against Amazon over e-book sales

11 Jun 2015

The European Commission (EC) is opening an antitrust investigation into Amazon’s e-book sales, alleging that the company’s attitude to how it sells e-books is anti-competitive and unfair to other distributors.

According to the EC’s statement on the filing of the antitrust investigation, the focus will be on Amazon’s contracts it signs with publishers, which the EC says forces them to reveal better pricing of e-books provided by its competitors, which then needs to be matched by Amazon.

This, the EC says, effectively shields Amazon from competition.

“The Commission has concerns that such clauses may make it more difficult for other e-book distributors to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services,” the EC said in its statement.

Amazon’s Kindle e-book service is by far the largest of its kind in the world, along with the most used e-book reader, also called the Kindle, and for its investigation the EC will focus on its businesses in the languages of English and German.

Issuing a response to the EU investigation, Amazon stated: “Amazon is confident that our agreements with publishers are legal and in the best interests of readers. We look forward to demonstrating this to the Commission as we cooperate fully during this process.”

This will not be the first time the e-book sector has been investigated, having first been investigated in 2011, with Apple and five of the largest publishing houses queried over claims that it was running a cartel to limit retail prices for e-books in the EEA.

Woman reading e-book image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic