Amazon is to be investigated by the European Commission (EC) over possible anti-competitive behaviour in its e-books business.
The commission said Amazon had clauses in its contracts with publishers that required them to inform Amazon of favourable or alternative terms offered to competitors, as well as to ensure that Amazon was offered terms at least as good as those of its competitors.
The EC said it had “concerns” that these conditions made it more difficult for other e-book distributors to compete, and therefore violated EU antitrust rules.
Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said she had a duty to protect consumers.
“Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for e-books,” she said in a statement.
“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.”
statement, the US firm 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.”
In April, the European Commission announced it was also opening antitrust investigations into Google’s search practices, and whether the internet company was unfairly promoting its own services over rivals in search results.
The commission has been criticised for targeting American technology companies, something Vestager has denied. However, earlier this year President Barack Obama warned against Europe seeking to protect its technology companies at the detriment of US firms – comments the commission called “out of line”.