THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) has opened yet another investigation into Amazon and is this time probing the company's allegedly questionable e-book distribution agreements.
Amazon's tax arrangements came under the watchful eye of the EC last year, and Europe is now investigating whether Amazon has acted in an anticompetitive way in the e-book market.
The EC is concerned particularly that Amazon forces publishers to inform the company about their agreements with competitors, which could violate EU antitrust rules that prohibit abuses of a dominant market position at the expense of consumers.
The EC said in a statement: "The Commission has concerns that such clauses may make it more difficult for other e-book distributors to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services."
These concerns stem from some clauses in Amazon's contracts with publishers, which include "the right [for Amazon] to be informed of more favourable or alternative terms offered to its competitors" and "the right to terms and conditions at least as good as those offered to its competitors".
Margrethe Vestager, EU commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: "Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for e-books. Our investigation does not call that into question.
"However, it is my duty to make sure that Amazon's arrangements with publishers are not 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."
In a statement sent to The INQUIRER, an Amazon spokesperson said: "Amazon is confident that our agreements with publishers are legal and in the best interests of readers.
"We look forward to demonstrating this to the Commission as we cooperate fully during this process."
Today's announcement marks the second time that the EC has waded into the e-book market. The EC investigated Apple and four major book publishers in 2012 for conspiring to fix prices, and forced the companies to terminate their existing agreements.
Apple paid $400m to settle the case in July last year, but still denies that it was involved in price-fixing. µ
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