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Business

Amazon Japan's pricing deals under investigation

TOKYO -- Japan's antitrust watchdog has launched an investigation into Amazon's practice of seeking assurances from suppliers that it is receiving the same prices as competitors, particularly in e-books, following a similar probe of the U.S. retail giant by Europe's competition regulator.

The Japanese investigation focuses on local unit Amazon Japan. It marks the Japan Fair Trade Commission's first case involving so-called most-favored nation clauses in e-commerce -- provisions that in essence guarantee that a distributor gets the lowest price from a supplier.

Such clauses do not themselves constitute a violation of Japanese antitrust law. But given Amazon's large share of the e-book market, it could extract terms so favorable that they keep rival retailers out, the watchdog believes.

Amazon's use of most-favored nation clauses in other types of transactions is not expected to form a significant part of the investigation. Apart from e-books, the clauses aren't effective in many cases because some e-commerce sites are able to offer lower prices than Amazon since they do not charge vendors fees for setting up shop, a person familiar with the sector says.

The European Commission began a similar investigation of Amazon's e-book business in June 2015. Separately, U.K., French, Italian and German authorities have probed a number of travel-booking sites since 2012 on suspicion that they pressured hotels to agree to most-favored nation clauses.

(Nikkei)

 

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