Amazon’s clash over e-books draws EU gaze

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Brussels -’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.

Apple and four publishers overhauled pricing models for e-books in Europe in 2012 to settle an EU antitrust probe over concerns that they tried to stop Amazon charging less for e-books.

EU regulators are showing more interest in Internet retailing with an examination into online hotel bookings and online sales of electronic products.

Amazon’s tax arrangements with Luxembourg are also being scrutinised by the EU, according to people familiar with the matter this month.

Kay Weidner, a spokesman for Germany’s Federal Cartel Office, confirmed by e-mail that it informed the booksellers about the EU’s preliminary review.


Physical Books


Amazon didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The company said last month that it isn’t delaying deliveries of Bonnier titles and holds lower-than-usual stocks of some of the publishers’ titles.

E-books should be cheaper than physical books and Bonnier seeks higher prices for e-versions than for hard copies for some titles, Amazon said in an e-mailed statement at the time.

Amazon, the biggest seller of e-books, has faced similar controversies in other markets, including a tussle with France’s Hachette Book Group.

Amazon is seeking a bigger cut of the retail price of titles so it can continue discounting e-books and boost margins, three people familiar with the matter said in June. - Bloomberg News

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