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EU: Amazon eBook deal complaints spread

 |  June 29, 2014

Just one day after a Germany booksellers association filed a complaint with national competition authorities over Amazon’s alleged anticompetitive contracts with eBook publishers, reports say the feud could be spreading as publishers in the UK are now fighting back against the top online retailer.

Now, reports say the European Commission has approached various publishers in the UK regarding the reported most favored nation clauses Amazon forces on book and eBook publishers. Those contractual agreements bar any publication from being sold at a cheaper price than what is listed on Amazon.

Under terms of a price-fixing agreement struck in the EU in 2012, five major publishers are barred from entering into MFN clauses regarding eBook prices, though the clauses were not deemed illegal.

German booksellers accused Amazon of unfair contracts earlier last week; Amazon responded to clarify that the site is seeking a larger cut of profits made from eBook sales.

The Commission declined to comment on the matter.

The ‘Anti-Amazon Law

Reports of the EU eyeing Amazon’s MFN clauses follow news that France passed legislation last Friday that prohibits online retailers from combining the offer of free shipping with the offer of a five percent discount. Reports say the law has been nicknamed the “Anti-Amazon Law,” as Amazon has the most to lose from the new rules.”

The law follows the 1982 passing of a law that established a fixed price of books in the nation to boost the ability of small book sellers to compete against major chains. That law allowed discounts on books of up to 5 percent.

But major online retailers soon began to offer both the five percent discount with the free shipping offer, a trend that was picked up by Amazon and lead the company to gain even more of the market share in book retail, reports say.

The latest law now aims to establish a more level playing field between online retailers like Amazon and independent book stores.

French Minister of Cultre Aurelie Filippetti was earlier quoted as warning that “Once [Amazon is] in a dominant position and will have crushed our network of bookshops, they will bring prices back up.”

Reports say President Francois Hollande is expected to sign the bill into law in the next few weeks.

Full content: The Bookseller and Christian Science Monitor

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