Home » Amazon, Big Publishing » EU competition chief to examine Amazon, Hachette e-book spat

EU competition chief to examine Amazon, Hachette e-book spat

5 June 2014

From Reuters:

The European Commission’s anti-trust officials are investigating a row between online retailer Amazon and French publisher Hachette.
. . . .

The companies themselves – Hachette, the fourth largest U.S. book publisher, is owned by France’s Lagadere SCA – have not given details about the basis for the dispute but several media reports have indicated it is over the pricing of e-books.

“We are trying to understand what’s going on there. We are looking into this and trying to understand,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in London.

. . . .

In December 2012, European Union regulators ended an antitrust probe into e-book prices, accepting an offer by Apple and four publishers to ease pricing restrictions on Amazon and other retailers.

Link to the rest at Reuters and thanks to Chris for the tip.

Amazon, Big Publishing

15 Comments to “EU competition chief to examine Amazon, Hachette e-book spat”

  1. I feel sorry for Amazon because of all the BS they’re having to put up with.

  2. Interesting, I thought I read that only the US site was the battlefield and that .UK and others weren’t affected so far. Anyone know if the European sites are affected?

  3. That commissioner sounds confused. Seeing as Amazon’s practices are particularly straightforward, I have a sneaking suspicion Hachette’s actions aren’t looking that reasonable.

    • I can tell you from personal experience that some regulators get confused by straightforward practices.

      This is not necessarily an insult. They’re just so used to people behaving secretively, “ne’er vouchsafe what you’re not asked,” that when you sit down across from ’em and say, “Here’s our financials, here’s our transaction flow, here’s our structure, anything else you want to look at?” it confuses them.

      I don’t know that that is what is happening here, but it’s a possibility, especially if Amazon is playing it straight and Hachette is not: the assumption will be that Amazon is just better at hiding than Hachette is.

  4. OMG, now Bezos controls European justice!

  5. Given that J.K. Rowling’s latest book is affected, I suppose they had to be seen to appear to be doing something.

  6. Hachette announced layoffs. They say it has nothing to do with the Amazon spat. Apparently they are just reducing overhead.

    All the shouting about how the government needs to step in and help out is just an industry going through some major pains and readjustments.

    Layoffs in editorial usually means fewer mid list and smallish books. Three well known editors leaving means big reductions in numbers of books.

    http://lunch.publishersmarketplace.com/2014/06/hachette-confirms-unspecified-layoffs/

    • If I thought a major publisher had the foresight to do this, that would be a pretty clever stroke – “We’ve got layoffs coming in three months… hey, let’s pick a fight with Amazon and blame it on them!”

  7. I’m not sure this is a good thing.
    Amazon is too vilified on the far side of the pond and they are too comfortable with price fixing of books over there. The previous investigation ended with…nothing. Just a toothless promise not to conspire again.
    Wouldn’t surprise me to see them propping Hachette up.

    • Agree. Investigation probably got started guided by the hope of finding some dirt on Amazon. This is after all the organization who decided print books and audio books are indeed books and get extra low sales tax for the greater good, while ebooks are considered a service and get slapped with a 3 times greater sales tax.

      (Noooo, this is not to slow down the transition to digital and protect the interests of two Eurozone based publishing conglomerates like Bertelsmann and Lagardère).

      A lot of nothing will come of this.

      • The timing suggests a political message to the DOJ: “You go after Hachette, we go after Amazon.”

        • But the DOJ has already gone after Hachette and found them guilty. :confused:

          • In europe, Amazon discounting is considered graver than price fixing. That is why the conspirators were let off with a wink and a nod.
            The DOJ might find fault with Hachette trying to backdoor the conspiracy terms but the EU might instead find fault with Amazon for wanting to set their own retail prices.

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