On 24 January 2017, the EC announced that it is inviting comments on commitments offered by Amazon to address competition concerns relating to parity clauses in contracts with publishers. The EC is concerned that these clauses may breach EU competition law rules and result in reduced competition among e-book distributors, and less consumer choice.

The clauses, sometimes referred to as "most-favoured-nation" or "MFN" clauses, require publishers to inform Amazon about more favourable or alternative terms offered to Amazon's competitors and/or offer Amazon terms and conditions similar to those offered to its competitors. This requirement includes forcing publishers to also offer to Amazon any new alternative business models, such as using different distribution methods or release dates, or making available a particular catalogue of e-books.

In the EC’s view, these clauses may make it harder for other e-book retailers to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services. Such clauses may also limit competition between different e-book distributors and reduce choice for consumers. To address the EC's concerns, Amazon has offered various commitments as to its behaviour.

The case seems to be based on an allegedly dominant position held by Amazon in relevant markets (presumably including at least e-book retailing), but the case will be relevant to many other businesses which deal with Amazon and also to similar commercial relationships not involving Amazon.

Additional European competition law news coverage can be found in our news section.