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German trade body files Amazon complaint

The German trade association the Börsenverein has officially lodged a complaint against Amazon with the German competition authorities, alleging that the giant e-tailer has abused its market power in its negotiations with the publisher Bonnier.

Amazon is in dispute with the Swedish-owned publisher over terms in Germany. The company is also negotiating with Hachette Book Group in the US. In both cases Amazon has responded to the deadlock by delaying the delivery of certain titles from these publishers, and removing buy-buttons for pre-order. According to the Börsenverein Amazon has sought “to enforce the claims by means which amount to coercion”.

The Börsenverein claimed that Amazon was seeking to increase terms on e-book sales to the retailer from 30% to between 40% and 50%. It reported that Amazon’s had a 70% share of the online book sales across both printed and digital books and was “thus clearly dominant”. It said these “special conditions” demand by Amazon, were driven by the “market strength of Amazon”.

Alexander Skipis, chief executive of the Börsenverein, added: "The business practices of Amazon's impact not only on the affected publishers, but represents a danger for all suppliers and distributors of e-books in Germany.”  Skipis said the Federal Cartel Office to launch an inquiry “prevent the actions of Amazon”.

In the UK, publishers have told The Bookseller that they too are facing tough negotiations with the giant retailer, with Amazon seeking parity on trade terms for e-books and p-books, and the ability to POD title where a publisher has run out of stock, or is having delivery issues. The Bookseller also noted that the European Union's Directorate General for Competition is understood to have approached major UK publishers over an investigation into Most Favoured Nation (MFN) clauses.