The German Antitrust Complaints Against Amazon, Audible Were Nothing More Than PR Stunts

2599969114_b869ec66e3_oOver the past couple years a couple antitrust complaints have been made against Amazon by publishers in Germany, but aside from the initial press splash little has been reported since.

As we learned in Jessica Sanger’s presentation at DBW 2016, that is because the complaints were baseless in that Amazon’s actions did not violate German law.

Sanger is the deputy head of the legal department at Boersenverein, the German booksellers and publishers trade group, and she gave a short talk where she updated us on the general lack of visible progress in these investigations.

When it comes to the book industry, there have been two antitrust complaints filed against Amazon in Germany. The first was filed in 2014, when Amazon was sparring with Bonnier over contract negotiations, and the second was filed last year when Audible was reportedly pressuring publishers into new contracts that included streaming rights and flat-rate terms.

In the case of Bonnier, Boersenverein complained because Amazon was letting Bonnier’s print titles go out of stock and using that to pressure the publisher. Audible was using a similar tactic last year, and was dropping publishers who would not agree to the new contract.

Now, you can hate Amazon for what it did, but what you can’t argue with is that the German Cartel Office isn’t investigating Amazon for either activity. Instead, Sanger informed us that the complaint letters sparked two tangentially related investigations.

The Bonnier complaint led to an investigation of the MFN, or most-favored-nation, clause which guaranteed Amazon a price as low as any of its competitors, while the Audible complaint got the German Cartel Office interested in Audible’s exclusive contract to distribute audiobooks to iTunes.

Both investigations are ongoing, Sanger told us.

The initial complaints, on the other hand, are not being investigated. When it comes to actual legal matters, Boersenverein’s complaints turned out to be as baseless as Authors United’s and the ABA’s whining about Amazon here in the US.

Boersenverein is zero for two in terms of valid legal complaints about Amazon. That is a point worth keeping in mind the next time they open their mouths.

image by 1lenore

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.


  1. fjtorres8 March, 2016

    Well, seriously, how can any retailer legally sell books they don’t have a contract for? From a guy in a trenchcoat in the warehouse district?

    It’s pretty simple: no contract, no listing…
    There is no “must-carry” law in commerce.
    Don’t like the terms? Sell elsewhere.

  2. […] two antitrust complaints made against Amazon by book publishers in Germany turned out to have no merit, but the ongoing EU investigation may have […]


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