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Amazon dropping e-book clauses to settle EU probe

Amazon.com Inc. has offered to drop certain parity clauses in its e-book contracts with publishers in a bid to settle an investigation by the European Commission.

The online retailer has offered not to enforce any clause that requires publishers to offer Amazon similar terms and conditions as those offered to its rivals or any clause requiring publishers to inform the company about such terms and conditions. This commitment would specifically cover terms and conditions regarding business models, release date and catalogue of e-books, features of e-books, promotions, agency price, agency commission and wholesale price, the regulator said Jan. 24.

Additionally, the company agreed to let publishers end e-book contracts that contain a clause linking discount possibilities for e-books to the retail price of a given e-book on a competing platform. Publishers would be allowed to terminate the contracts upon an advance written notice of 120 days.

The commitments would apply for a period of five years to e-book agreements throughout the European Economic Area. Amazon would also appoint a trustee to monitor its compliance with the commitments.

The commitments come after an investigation by the commission found that clauses, sometimes referred to as "most-favored-nation" or "MFN" clauses, were in violation of the EU antitrust rules that bar abuses of a dominant market position and restrictive business practices. The European Commission has sought feedback on the commitments offered by the company.

Apple Inc. and Amazon.com recently ended their exclusivity obligations regarding the audiobook supply and distribution between the online retailer's unit Audible and the iPhone maker.