Apple and Amazon have agreed to cease all exclusivity obligations previously put in place between the two companies regarding the supply and distribution of audiobooks through iTunes and Audible (via Reuters). The partnership between the two companies previously incited a complaint from the German Publishers and Booksellers Association in 2015 centering around the potential for a monopoly in the European audiobook industry by the two powerhouse companies.
Now, competition is expected to be boosted and the European Commission and the German Federal Cartel Office are welcoming the decision made by Apple and Amazon to end their exclusive distribution deal of Audible audiobooks on iTunes, meaning other companies can now distribute audiobooks on Apple's popular digital marketplace. Simultaneously, Audible can now place its audiobooks on other digital marketplaces for users to download.
On Thursday, the German Federal Cartel Office said it has officially closed its investigation because "there was no further reason to continue."
"The European Commission welcomes an agreement to end all exclusivity obligations concerning audiobook supply and distribution between Amazon's subsidiary Audible and Apple," the EU competition authority said in a statement.
"With the deletion of the exclusivity agreement Apple will now have the opportunity to purchase digital audiobooks from other suppliers," Andreas Mundt, president of the German cartel office, said in a statement.
Back in 2015, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association began its complaint by saying that Apple and Amazon were "abusing their dominant market position" with the audiobook deal. In total, more than 90 percent of all audiobook downloads in Germany are made through Amazon's Audible service, or via iTunes, making the pairing of the two companies particularly troublesome in the eyes of the association.
According to the German Cartel Office's president, Andreas Mundt, the end of the exclusivity deal "will enable a wider range of offer and lower prices for consumers." The deal's termination touches all markets that Apple and Amazon previously had exclusive audiobook coverage over, not just those in Europe.
The audiobook case differs from Apple's long-running e-book price-fixing lawsuit, which finally reached an end last year and saw the company forced to pay a $450 million settlement. The case began in 2014 when Apple was found guilty of conspiring with publishers to inflate the prices of e-books, with the $450 million settlement reached in March of 2016. Specifically, the amount was broken down with $400 million paid out to e-book customers, $20 million to the states, and $30 million in the form of legal fees.