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Kindle-VoyageThe European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation into Amazon’s e-book contracts with publishers, examining whether their terms give the Seattle-based company an unfair advantage over its competitors in the market.

The investigation will examine clauses that give Amazon the right to be informed when publishers offer alternative terms to competing e-book platforms, and the right to receive terms at least as favorable as its competitors receive.

The commission says it will investigate “whether such clauses may hinder the level playing field and potentially decrease competition between different e-book distributors to the detriment of consumers.”

Amazon released this statement: “Amazon is confident that our agreements with publishers are legal and in the best interests of readers.  We look forward to demonstrating this to the Commission as we cooperate fully during this process.”

The investigation, announced this morning, is the latest in a series of probes by European officials into U.S. technology companies.

“Amazon has developed a successful business that offers consumers a comprehensive service, including for e-books,” says Margrethe Vestager, EU commissioner for competition policy, in a statement. “Our investigation does not call that into question. However, it is my duty to make sure that Amazon’s arrangements with publishers are not harmful to consumers, by preventing other e-book distributors from innovating and competing effectively with Amazon. Our investigation will show if such concerns are justified.”

Amazon has also been the subject of an EU investigation into a practice of funneling its European revenue through Luxembourg to reduce its overall tax bill. The company has since begun to change that practice, booking revenue through specific European countries, according to a Wall Street Journal report last month.

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