Amazon Said to Weigh EU Settlement in Bid to End E-Books Probeby and
Settlement talks with Amazon and publishers at an early stage
EU concerned that Amazon contracts may harm rival retailers
Amazon.com Inc. is in talks with European Union regulators to settle an antitrust probe into how its e-book contracts with publishers may be squeezing out rival distributors, according to people familiar with the case.
Amazon, already the target of an EU investigation into its tax arrangements with Luxembourg, is trying to do a deal with the European Commission that would shut down the year-long e-books probe, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are confidential and at an early stage. Any deal would have to be tested with publishers before it became final, they said.
A settlement would allow Amazon to follow Apple Inc. which escaped fines in 2012 by agreeing with the EU to overhaul pricing for digital books. The EU is focusing on Amazon contracts that require publishers to tell the technology giant about terms they offer to other e-book retailers and, in some cases, give at least as good a deal to Amazon.
EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager hasn’t shied away from going after big U.S. companies since taking over as the EU’s antitrust chief in late 2014. While she dismisses criticism that she’s deliberately targeting U.S. firms, some of her biggest probes concern Amazon, Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Apple which in August was ordered to pay as much as 13 billion euros ($14.6 billion) in unpaid taxes, plus interest, to Ireland.
Amazon and Ricardo Cardoso, a spokesman for the commission in Brussels, both declined to comment.
Amazon, now the largest distributor of e-books in Europe, helped pioneer the market with the introduction of the Kindle device in 2007.
The EU opened its probe last year, saying it was checking whether Amazon’s contracts prevent competitors from developing new products and limit competition between sellers of e-books. The investigation focuses on books published in English and German.