Amazon offers to scrap ebook clauses to settle EU antitrust case

Publishers will not be forced to give Amazon terms as good as those for rivals under new deal

Photograph: iStock

Photograph: iStock


US online retailer Amazon has offered to alter its ebook contracts with publishers in a bid to end an EU antitrust investigation and stave off a possible fine, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

Amazon, the biggest ebook distributor in Europe, proposed to drop some clauses in its contracts so publishers will not be forced to give it terms as good as those for rivals, the commission said.

Such clauses relate to business models, release dates, catalogues of ebooks, features of ebooks, promotions, agency prices, agency commissions and wholesale prices.

The commission opened an investigation into the company’s ebooks in English and German in June 2015, concerned that such parity clauses make it harder for other ebook retailers to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services.

The EU competition enforcer gave rivals and customers a month to provide feedback before it decides whether to accept the proposal. Under EU antitrust rules, such settlements mean no finding of infringement nor fines which could reach 10 per cent of a company’s global turnover.

Amazon said it was pleased with the agreement but disagreed with the commission’s preliminary assessment, saying that ebooks are not a separate market as they compete directly with print books and other forms of media.

Amazon’s offer, if accepted, would apply in Europe for five years.

The commission is also investigating Amazon over its arrangement with Luxembourg to minimise its tax bill, part of a crackdown on such deals in the 28-country block.