Amazon is no stranger to issues surrounding ebook prices. Stateside, Amazon was a quiet player in the Apple-Big Five lawsuit brought about by the Department of Justice, but in Europe, Amazon is the central figure in the proceedings. At its heart, the issue stems from alleged price fixing that forces the publishers’ hands in an already hotly contested topic.
But there may be a light at the end of a very long tunnel for Amazon. Not only is there a workable deal in the offering, but it’s one that allows Amazon to put this matter behind them without having to admit fault. It also helps the European Commission avoid having to provide clear burden of proof.
There were originally two areas of concern in the long investigation. The first was basically price fixing to give Amazon a clear advantage in the market, and the other was known as an “abuse of dominance.” Moving forward with its case, the EC dropped the price fixing focus, presumably because they found no provable violation in the contracts Amazon struck with the publishers.
The other matter, however, has continued to move forward. After determining that the contracts were imposed by Amazon rather than the publishers, that spoke to a clearer “abuse of dominance” matter than collusion with the publishers. But taking a deal does more than just absolve Amazon of admissions of guilt and ever-increasing legal fees: it also establishes once and for all whether ebooks are considered “books” in that market. Right now, the concept is a gray area, and one report indicates that this would work out a definition that still gives Amazon a leg up against future charges of this kind.