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Amazon offers to scrap e-book clauses to settle EU antitrust probe

By Foo Yun Chee

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. online retailer Amazon <AMZN.O> has offered to alter its e-book contracts with publishers in a bid to end an EU antitrust probe and stave off a possible fine, the European Commission said on Tuesday.

Amazon, the biggest e-book distributor in Europe, proposed to drop some clauses in its contracts so publishers will not be forced to give it terms as good as those for rivals, the Commission said.

Such clauses relate to business models, release dates, catalogs of e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency prices, agency commissions and wholesale prices.

The Commission opened an investigation into the company's e-books in English and German in June 2015, concerned that such parity clauses make it harder for other e-book retailers to compete with Amazon by developing new and innovative products and services.

The EU competition enforcer gave rivals and customers a month to provide feedback before it decides whether to accept the proposal. Under EU antitrust rules, such settlements mean no finding of infringement nor fines which could reach 10 percent of a company's global turnover.

Amazon said it was pleased with the agreement but disagreed with the Commission's preliminary assessment, saying that e-books are not a separate market as they compete directly with print books and other forms of media.

Amazon's offer, if accepted, would apply in Europe for five years.

The Commission is also probing Amazon over its arrangement with Luxembourg to minimize its tax bill, part of a crackdown on such deals in the 28-country bloc.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Jason Neely and Tom Heneghan)

 

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