Connecticut is actively investigating how Amazon.com Inc. sells and distributes digital attorneys, according to the state attorney general, the latest of several state and federal investigations into the tech giant’s business practices.
The investigation is investigating whether Amazon engages in anticomestic behavior in the e-book business through its agreements with certain publishers, Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement.
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Connecticut asked Amazon to provide documents related to its dealings with five of the largest US book publishers, according to a subpoena released in 2019. The Tech Transparency Project, a nonprofit company that investigates technology platforms, received the subpoena through an open records request and shared it. With The Wall Street Journal.
Amazon declined to comment. A spokesman for Mr. Tong said that the company cooperated with the subpoena.
Connecticut has previously taken interest in the e-book business. In 2012, the US Justice Department alleged in a civil antitrust lawsuit that the five major publishers and Apple Inc. worked together to raise e-book prices. Connecticut, along with Texas, led a similar legal effort by a group of states.
“Our office continues to aggressively monitor this market to protect fair competition for consumers, authors and other e-book retailers,” Mr. Tong said in a statement.
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Publishers cited in Connecticut’s Amazon subpoena include Harper Collins Publishers, which, like The Wall Street Journal, is owned by News Corp; Hatchet Book Group of Legardere SCA; Penguin Random House is a unit of the German media company Bertelsmann SE; Simon & Schuster, Viacom CBS Inc.’s book publishing arm; And Macmillan. Penguin Random House has agreed to acquire Simon & Schuster pending regulatory approval.
All publishers cited in Uppo declined to comment.
The Connecticut investigation is one of several investigations into the Seattle-based company’s market power. In October, the House Antitrust Subcommittee completed a 16-month investigation into Amazon and other technology companies, concluding that Amazon had accumulated “monopoly power” over sellers on its site.
The US Department of Justice launched a comprehensive investigation into the market power of large technology companies, including Amazon, in 2019, and the Federal Trade Commission has monitored Amazon as a comprehensive look at the business practices of large technology companies. In addition to Connecticut, California investigators are looking into Amazon’s business practices, the Journal reports.
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Amazon is America’s leading e-book retailer in September, selling 76% of digital books, according to Codex Group LLC, a book audience research company. Rival vendors for digital books include Apple, Alphabet Inc. Google and Barnes & Noble.
The e-book market has been controversial for years. Amazon launched its Kindle e-reader in November 2007, when it offered a digital bestseller for $ 9.99, and started the business. The discounted offering helped Amazon gain market share, but publishers believed it hurt the industry.
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A few years later, Apple entered the business as it launched the iPad, allowing those dealers to set retail prices for their books. It retained the older model, where publishers let retailers set prices for consumers, and effectively blocked the rebate without publishers approval.
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The Justice Department later lodged its civil protest against Apple and five major publishers. The publishers settled. Apple went to trial but lost.