German Watchdog Agency Probes iTunes, Amazon

Kevin P. Casey/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  The building housing the headquarters of Amazon.com Inc. in Seattle, Washington. 

Germany's federal watchdog group for market competition is probing the relationship between Apple and Amazon in the audiobook business. The Federal Cartel Office's investigation, announced Monday, follows complaints by German book sellers that Amazon-owned Audible and Apple's iTunes were too dominant. 

iTunes' library of books is exclusively supplied by Amazon/Audible. Publishers in Germany have argued that Amazon's terms are unreasonable, but say they are left with little choice since more than 90 percent of audiobook downloads in the country are made via Amazon/Audible or iTunes.

"Both companies hold a strong position in the market for digital audiobooks in Germany," said cartel office president Andreas Mundt. "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."

Mundt added, "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 [cartel] is in close contact with the European Commission, which has also received the complaint."


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