Amazon offers to scrap e-book clauses to settle EU antitrust probe

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By Foo Yun Chee | BRUSSELS

BRUSSELS U.S. online retailer Amazon has offered to alter its e-book contracts with publishers in a
bid to end an EU antitrust probe and stave off a possible fine,
the European Commission said on Tuesday.

Amazon, the biggest e-book 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 e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency
prices, agency commissions and wholesale prices.

The Commission opened an investigation into the company’s
e-books in English and German in June 2015, concerned that such
parity clauses make it harder for other e-book 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 percent
of a company’s global turnover.

Amazon said it was pleased with the agreement but disagreed
with the Commission’s preliminary assessment, saying that
e-books 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 probing Amazon over its arrangement
with Luxembourg to minimise its tax bill, part of a crackdown on
such deals in the 28-country bloc.



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