The Bookseller reported today that Börsenverein, the German book industry trade group, has filed an antitrust complaint against Amazon with Bundeskartellamt Beschwerde, the German Federal Cartel Office.
The Börsenverein is alleging that Amazon’s ongoing contract negotiation with the Swedish-owned Bonnier crosses the line from playing dirty to illegal. As you may recall from when I broke the story in May, Amazon was said to be pressuring Bonnier by letting Bonnier’s print titles go out of stock and by removing pre-order buttons.
According to industry gossip which has been repeated by Börsenverein, Amazon is pressuring Bonnier into accepting a lower ebook royalty. Rather than take what is now an industry standard cut of 30%, Amazon is said to be seeking to increase its cut to between 40% and 50%. Of course, the details from the negotiations are entirely unconfirmed, even when Börsenverein shares them; any negotiation with Amazon is likely conducted under an NDA and thus the details should not have been disclosed.
According to Börsenverein, Amazon has a 70% share of the online book sales across both print and digital, and was “thus clearly dominant”. These “special conditions” demand by Amazon, were driven by the “market strength of Amazon”. (Curiously enough, I don’t see a mention of the total German book market and Amazon’s share; I will look into that.)
And so the trade group is asking that Amazon be investigated for violating Germany’s laws against competition. It’s not known at this time whether Amazon will be fined or even investigated, but it seems Amazon’s finally pushed things too far.
In addition to Germany, Amazon is also pressuring publishers in the UK to radically change the terms of their contracts with Amazon, and the retailer is also in round 7 of a knock down drag out fight with Hachette in the US.
There haven’t been any reports of Amazon playing dirty in the UK (not yet), but here in the US Amazon has been short stocking Hachette titles, selling them at full price, and removing the pre-order buttons.
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