Amazon's e-books clash with a publisher is on the European Union’s radar after EU officials said they’re seeking to understand the dispute, which also spurred a German antitrust complaint by booksellers.
Germany’s association of booksellers said they were told of the EU’s interest by Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, according to an e-mailed statement today.
Book retailers already sought a German probe of Amazon’s negotiation practices for buying rights to e-books in a dispute with Amazon over delays for deliveries of Bonnier AB physical books to force it to accept lower prices, according to a complaint filed last month.
The European Commission is “trying to understand the issues involved,” said Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the commission, in an e-mailed statement. He said regulators are aware of the complaint filed with Germany’s Bundeskartellamt, Germany’s antitrust authority.
The European Commission is asking for information concerning the antitrust that was filed in Germany several weeks ago. The Börsenverein (the German book industry trade group) had filed the complaint with the Bundeskartellamt Beschwerde, the German Federal Cartel Office, alleging that Amazon was using its monopoly power to illegally pressure the German subsidiaries of Bonnier into accepting a contract with unfavorable terms.
It's not clear at this time what the EU wants to know or why, but it is worth noting that the EU expressed similar interest in the ongoing Amazon-Hachette contract dispute back in early June. There has been no visible outcome of that query, and there's no reason to think that the EU will take any action in the case of the antitrust complaint.
It's also not clear that the antitrust complaint will amount to anything more than a complaint. I've been told by a couple people in Germany that the complaint is predicated on a weak argument which won't stand up to scrutiny, but of course we won't know that for sure until after the lawyers get involved.