EU antitrust regulators praise audiobooks deal from Apple, Amazon

Apple and Amazon's Audible had exclusive deals with each other

Antitrust regulators from the European Union have welcomed an agreement between Apple and Amazon to end exclusivity deals for audiobooks.

The agreement between Apple and Amazon and its Audible service to remove the exclusivity obligations allows Audible to supply its downloadable audiobooks to third-party platforms beyond iTunes, the European Commission said Thursday. In addition, the agreement will allow Apple to source audiobooks from new suppliers and will allow publishers to enter into distributions agreements directly with Apple, the Commission said.

Audible and Apple's iTunes store are two of the world's largest distributors of downloadable audiobooks to consumers. Audible, owned by Amazon since 2008, is the world's largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks.

Earlier this month, Audible and Apple agreed to remove all exclusivity obligations related to the supply and distribution of audiobooks. These exclusivity obligations, which predated Amazon's acquisition of Audible, required Apple to source exclusively from Audible and prohibited Audible from supplying to other music digital platforms.

The removal of these exclusivity obligations "will allow for further competition in a fast-growing and innovative market and allow European consumers broader access to downloadable audiobooks," the Commission said in a press release.

The European Commission had been looking into the exclusivity arrangement since it received a complaint from the German Publishers and Booksellers Association. The German Federal Cartel Office opened an investigation into Audible and Apple in November 2015.

Separately, the Commission opened an antitrust investigation into Amazon's audiobook contracts in June. The Commission investigated clauses included in Amazon's contracts that required publishers to inform the company about more favorable terms offered to its competitors, the Commission said then.

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