EU Investigates Amazon Over E-Books

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The FINANCIAL — The European Union is investigating whether Inc. has violated EU antitrust laws in its electronic-books business, amid concerns that the U.S. company’s contracts with publishers may stifle competition and harm consumers, according to Nasdaq.

The European Commission, the EU’s top antitrust authority, said on June 11 it had opened a formal investigation into certain business practices by Amazon in the distribution of electronic books.

At issue are clauses in Amazon’s contracts with publishers that the EU said seemed “to shield Amazon from competition from other e-book distributors.” The clauses include one granting the company the right to be informed of more favorable terms offered to its competitors, and the right to terms at least as good as those offered to its competitors.

EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said she wanted to ensure “that Amazon’s arrangements with publishers aren’t harmful to consumers, by preventing other e-book distributors from innovating and competing effectively with Amazon.”

“Our investigation will show if such concerns are justified,” Ms. Vestager said in a statement.

The commission has opened separate investigations in recent months into how electronic platforms like Amazon and Google Inc. operate in Europe. Brussels is examining whether companies are raising barriers to e-commerce across the bloc.

Amazon is also one of four multinational companies whose tax affairs are being probed by EU regulators amid concerns that they may have benefited from sweetheart deals, which are illegal under EU law.


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