The Commission wishes to inform the Honourable Member that the Commission follows very closely the developments in the market for the online sales of books and is aware of Amazon's price policy.
As regards compliance with competition rules, Article 101 TFEU prohibits anti-competitive agreements between two or more companies. In this case, it concerns a unilateral decision taken by Amazon. Therefore, it appears that Article 101 is not applicable. Article 102 TFEU prohibits companies with a dominant market position from abusing their position. However, the Commission has not assessed whether Amazon has a dominant position. The Commission is hence not in a position at this stage to take a view on whether or not Amazon's price policy is in line with EU competition rules.
As far as small book retailers are concerned, the Commission would like to inform the Honourable Member that so far it has not received any formal complaints in the matter of Amazon's price parity. The Commission will continue to monitor the developments in the market for the online sales of books so as to ensure that competition and level playing field is preserved amongst all market players.
This response raises a number of interesting points:
- Although Price Parity was initially a unilateral decision taken by Amazon, what happens if a company which sells on Amazon Marketplace complies with the policy? Would this be considered to be an 'agreement between two or more companies' and would it put the seller in breach of Article 101 TFEU?
- Although Article 102 TFEU prohibits companies with a dominant market position from abusing their position, it was surprising to hear that the Commission has not assessed whether a major player like Amazon has a dominant position.
- What constitutes a formal complaint? We know of several sellers who have complained through their MEP and we also know that the IOBA wrote a letter of complaint to the European Commission.
Graham Watson has written directly to the Commissioner to register the concerns that have been expressed to him and to ask the Commission to investigate Amazon's market position and policy. He also said that he will continue to pursue this important matter with the Commission, and will keep the bookselling community updated with any progress.
The question of how vigorously Amazon are enforcing their Price Parity policy still remains. We know that they have added a 'Tell us about a lower price' link on their product pages, but that would only be effective for new books. There is no mention of Price Parity in the Amazon.com Terms and Conditions - and Amazon Germany does not enforce Price Parity for books. We have seen no evidence - apart from The Book Depository's apparent departure - of any seller being warned about non compliance. Please let us know if you have any information regarding Amazon's enforcement of this policy. You can do this anonymously by adding a comment to this article.
Amazon introduces Price Parity policy
Amazon Referred to European Commission
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Amazon Introduces 'Tell us about a lower price'
Has 'The Book Depository' left Amazon?
Copy of the IOBA's letter of complaint
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