• Bundeskartellamt has Audio Books in its Sights
  • January 28, 2016
  • Law Firm: GRP Rainer LLP - Cologne Office
  • Audio books have attracted the attention of the Bundeskartellamt (German Federal Cartel Office). The competition watchdog is investigating whether an online mail order company and a manufacturer of consumer electronics are acting contrary to competition law.

    GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: As it announced on November 16, 2015, the Bundeskartellamt has initiated administrative proceedings in connection with the distribution of audio books. In doing so, the competition watchdog has set its sights on the practices of a large online mail order company and a manufacturer of computers, consumer electronics, etc. in their distribution of audio books. The two companies have a longstanding agreement concerning the purchase and sale of audio books.

    Both companies were said in a press release from the Cartel Office to be in a strong position within Germany in the digital provision of audio books, which is why the arrangements between the two companies are now being carefully scrutinized by the competition regulators. The stated aim is to ensure that audio book publishers have sufficient alternatives for the sale of their digital audio books.

    These investigations are based on a complaint under competition law brought by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels (German Publishers and Booksellers Association). In its view, the current situation has the effect of limiting its ability to be able to independently market audio books, believing that this not only affects publishers but also dealers and customers. The Börsenverein has thus accused both companies of abusing their dominant market position in the digital provision of audio books by dictating certain conditions to publishers. In addition to the Bundeskartellamt, the complaint has also been received by the relevant department of the EU Commission.

    The Bundeskartellamt has begun investigations. In the context of administrative proceedings, the companies concerned will not have fines imposed on them, but they may ultimately have to bring an end to the current practice.

    It is absolutely possible for infringements of competition law to result in companies being faced with severe consequences, such as formal warnings, interim orders, damages claims or injunction suits. The companies concerned can turn to lawyers who are competent in the field of competition law to enforce as well as fend off these kinds of legal actions.