Brussels stepped up its attack on Amazon by launching an inquiry into its ebook business.
The European Commission is set to investigate whether the company prevented competitors from entering the European markets, of which it controls more than 90 per cent.
The commission said it would look in particular at certain clauses included in Amazon’s contracts with publishers. These, it said, required publishers to inform the US technology giant about more favourable or alternative terms offered to its competitors – a way of ensuring that Amazon is offered terms at least as good as those, which would be anti-competitive.
Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s Competition Commissioner, said: “Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for ebooks. Our investigation does not call that into question. However, it is my duty to make sure that Amazon’s arrangements with publishers are not harmful to consumers, by preventing other ebook distributors from innovating and competing effectively with Amazon. Our investigation will show if such concerns are justified.”
The probe heaps more pressure on Amazon in Europe, where it is already being investigated for the low taxes that it pays in Luxembourg.
Apple and Starbucks are among the other US companies being investigated by European regulators. In April, the EU also filed a complaint against Google over alleged anti-competitive behaviour.
Amazon said it was confident its agreements with publishers were legal and in the best interests of readers.