November 17, 2015

Amazon and Apple are being investigated by Germany’s federal antitrust office



The Germans are coming.

At this point, Amazon and Germany’s back-and-forth is becoming the stuff of legend. Remember that time Amazon’s warehouse workers in Germany went on strike, then did it again, and again, and again? Or when German publishers pulled their books from Amazon warehouses? Or that time Amazon only paid .0004% of its German income in taxes, using a loophole they’ve since abandoned? How about when Germany created an e-reader to compete with the Kindle, and it apparently succeeded?

Harro ten Wolde at Reuters recently reported on the latest development in the endless saga between Amazon and Germany—but this time the squabble involves a third party tech giant: Apple.

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office has begun an investigation into Apple Inc.’s arrangement with Amazon for purchasing audiobooks, the competition watchdog said in a statement on Monday.

It said both companies had a long-term agreement for the purchase of audio books by Apple from Amazon’s Audible business for distribution via Apple’s iTunes store.

This news comes several months after the European Commission announced their own antitrust probe, one centering on Amazon’s European ebook sales.

An official statement from Andreas Mundt, the president of the Federal Cartel Office (or “Bundeskartellamt“), read:

Both companies hold a strong position in the market for digital audiobooks in Germany. We therefore see ourselves obliged to examine more closely the agreement between these two competitors. The audiobook publishers need to have sufficient alternative channels for the sale of their digital audiobooks. The proceedings were initiated following a complaint by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels) which objects to various practices used by Audible, including its exclusive supply of audiobooks to Apple’s iTunes Store. The Bundeskartellamt is in close contact with the European Commission, which has also received the complaint.

According to Reuters, over 90 percent of all audio books purchased in Germany were made via Audible/Amazon or iTunes, the latter are exclusively supplied by Audible. So it’s understandable that German publishers would lobby the government to investigate—assuming that they’re not too busy with their recent kerfuffle over sexy, sexy ebooks.



Liam O'Brien is the Sales & Marketing Manager at Melville House, and a former bookseller.