On May 4 2017, the Commission accepted commitments offered by Amazon concerning its electronic book ("e-book") distribution arrangements. E-books have experienced a surge in popularity in recent years and are of increasing importance to online retail. Amazon is the largest distributor of e-books in Europe.
The Commission had opened an investigation on 11 June 2015 into certain business practices by Amazon in the distribution of e-books. The investigation focused especially on so-called "most-favored-nation" clauses. These clauses required publishers to inform Amazon about more favorable or alternative terms offered to Amazon's competitors and/or offer Amazon similar terms and conditions to those offered to its competitors, or through other means ensure that Amazon is offered terms at least as good as those offered to its competitors. The Commission had concerns that such clauses may make it more difficult for other e-book distributors to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services.
To address the Commission's concerns, Amazon offered to make the following commitments: (a) not to enforce relevant clauses requiring publishers to offer Amazon similar non-price and price-related terms and conditions to those offered to Amazon's competitors or any such clauses requiring publishers to inform Amazon about such terms and conditions; (b) to allow publishers to terminate e-book contracts that contain a clause linking discounts for e-books to the retail price of a given e-book in a competing platform; and (c) to not include any of the aforementioned clauses in any new e-book agreements with publishers.
The Commission concluded that the amended final version of the commitments offered a timely, effective and comprehensive solution to the competition concerns it had identified. The commitments will help to ensure that innovation for e-books by publishers and other third parties can benefit companies other than Amazon and protect effective competition for e-books to the benefit of consumers. The commitments apply for a period of five years and to any e-book in any language distributed by Amazon in the EEA.
Source: Commission Press Release 04/05/2017 and Commission Press Release 11/06/2015.