Amazon wants to avoid an antitrust fine in Europe by changing the standard eBook contracts it signs with authors and publishers. The Seattle-based tech giant offered to remove some clauses from its contracts that force eBook publishers selling their creations through Amazon to offer the company equal terms to those given to other publishing platforms, the European Commission said in a statement on Tuesday. Amazon's proposal comes a year and a half after the Commission started investigating the company's publishing practices related to eBooks distributed in English and German. European regulators are still trying to determine whether Amazon's clauses were designed to stifle more innovative competition and are consequently anti-competitive, but the U.S. retailer is now apparently willing to show some goodwill by proactively altering its controversial eBook contracts.
Amazon has been the biggest eBook retailer in Europe for many years and the company originally drew the attention of the European Commission in mid-2015. The firm's contract clauses allow eBook publishers to sell their products on Amazon only if they're willing to avoid offering timed exclusives, discounts, and similar promotions through other platforms. The Commission suspects this kind of stipulation negatively affects the free market as nothing should theoretically stop publishers from utilizing their distribution channels in various ways and force them to give one distributor a priority over the others. The antitrust investigation into Amazon's eBook contracts is now allegedly being wrapped up and could result in a significant fine for the company, which is why the U.S. tech giant is now offering to drop the controversial clauses and not fight the matter any further.
The European Commission is now accepting feedback from Amazon's competitors and customers and will make its final decision next month, the European officials told Reuters. If Amazon's offer is accepted, the company would drop the controversial clauses for the next five years and would avoid all anti-competitive fines it's currently facing. The European competition watchdog said that such fines could amount to 10-percent of Amazon's annual revenue. Despite its peace offering, Amazon is still disagreeing with the Commission over its definition of a market as the company claims eBooks aren't an ecosystem of their own and are also competing with other formats.