Expanding its regulatory scrutiny of the biggest U.S. technology companies, the European Commission (EC) today opens an investigation into Amazon’s ebook contracts with publishers in the European Union.
A key area of concern are clauses requiring publishers to inform Amazon of terms with its competitors that may be favorable, a practice the EC says may “make it more difficult for other e-book distributors to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services.”
Known as “most favored nation” clauses, those terms were at the center of the antitrust ruling against Apple and five major U.S. trade publishers in 2013.
In an announcement today, the EU Commissioner heading up the inquiry acknowledges that “Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for e-books. Our investigation does not call that into question.” Still, she affirms the EC’s responsibility “to make sure that Amazon’s arrangements with publishers are not harmful to consumers.”
EU authorities are separately investigating Amazon’s tax reporting policies within the economic community, in a probe that is continuing despite the e-tailer’s decision earlier this month to record sales through more subsidiaries throughout the EU, instead of just one location in Luxembourg, where Amazon is believed to have negotiated a more favorable tax deal.