German Publishing Group Files Complaint Against Amazon


FRANKFURT--The association of German publishers said Tuesday it filed a complaint against Amazon.com Inc., accusing the online retailer of trying to strong-arm a publisher into more favorable pricing.

The association alleges that Amazon is delaying delivery of books from Swedish media company Bonnier AB, with the goal of getting better pricing terms on e-books. The association asked Germany's antitrust watchdog to investigate Amazon's actions, calling them an abuse of its market position.

Bonnier confirmed the dispute, but declined to give details. Amazon couldn't comment immediately.

It isn't the first time the e-commerce giant has been accused of using its position to wrangle better terms from media companies. In the U.S., Amazon is entangled in a dispute on e-book pricing with the Hachette Book Group. It is also negotiating with Warner Bros. studio in an attempt to get better terms on DVDs and Blu-ray releases, according to a people familiar with the matter.

Germany is Amazon's largest market after the U.S. and its market position makes local publishers dependent on the company, according to the Boersenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels. The industry association, which represents some 1,850 publishers and thousands of book stores and sellers, likened Amazon's business approach to "blackmail" tactics.

"Amazon's business conduct has consequences not only for the affected publishers, but poses a danger to all e-book providers and distributors in Germany," the group said.

A spokesman for the industry group, Thomas Koch, said Bonnier's situation was only the trigger for the complaint with antitrust authorities, and a sign of what could be a larger problem. Other publishers may be affected, or in negotiations, and thus reluctant to make noise, he said.

"It's brave of Bonnier to speak up," said Mr. Koch, but "our complaint goes beyond them."

Bonnier operates 16 publishers in Germany according to its website, including arsEdition, Libresco and Carlsen Verlag.

Germany's cartel office said it received the complaint and would decide after an initial review whether to launch a more formal investigation.

Amazon tangled with Germany's cartel office in 2013, when the antitrust authority ordered the company to abandon a price parity policy that limited competition by third-party sellers.

Write to Sarah Sloat at sarah.sloat@wsj.com

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