Amazon Under Antitrust Probe Over e-Book Wrangling

July 12, 2014 at 5:12 pm

On July 11, 2014, Germany’s association of booksellers announced that European Union (“EU”) officials contacted them regarding its dispute with Amazon.com. The booksellers have already asked German antitrust authorities to investigate Amazon, alleging that the online retailer is delaying the shipment of one of its member, Bonnier AG’s books over a dispute on the price of the publisher’s e-books.

Amazon, in response, stated that Bonnier AG wanted Amazon to charge prices for its e-books that would have been higher than its hard-copy books. According to Amazon, their regular course of action is to charge lower prices for e-books compared to the hard copies. Amazon has been caught in similar disputes, including one with French publisher Hachette Book Group. Amazon is thought to be attempting to boost its margins in its e-books division by negotiating lower prices from publishers.

Similar cases may give prediction to Amazon’s course of action in the face of antitrust investigation. In 2012, Apple Inc. and four publishers changed the pricing model for e-books in Europe in the face of scrutiny from EU antitrust authorities. They were suspected to have conspired to keep Amazon from charging less for e-books.

In addition to this case, Amazon’s tax arrangements with Luxembourg are also believed to be under investigation by EU authorities.

 

Mark Ye
202-589-1834
mye@dbmlawgroup.com