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EU Expresses Interest in German Antitrust Probe into Amazon

amazon frownIt looks like the antitrust complaint that a German book industry trade group filed against Amazon last month could be bearing unexpected fruit.

Bloomberg is reporting that the European Commission wants details:

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.

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Mike July 12, 2014 um 2:06 am

It’s what we call a shot across the bow. Think Robin Hood.

Bob W July 12, 2014 um 8:52 am

More like the Sherrif of Nottingham protecting the King’s deer.

Mike July 12, 2014 um 8:55 am

Yeah, what dear?
The Germans aren’t stupid. They see a company on the verge of bankruptcy that doesn’t pay any taxes trying to eat through business after business.
Maybe that kind of nonsense is OK in the US, but then again the big recession hardly affected them whereas it was scorched earth in the States.

Amazon Signs New Contracts With Bonnier, Simon & Schuster – The Digital Reader October 20, 2014 um 5:25 pm

[…] Amazon had been in a protracted contract dispute in Germany with Bonnier since May 2014, and had been using the same tactics, and facing the same criticism there as in the US, including a letter signed by authors, an antitrust complaint filed by a book industry trade group, and a possible investigation from EU authorities. […]

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