(Mis)Uses of Technology

by Mike Masnick


Filed Under:
anti-trust, books, delays, ftc

Companies:
amazon, hachette



Amazon Taunting Antitrust Regulators By Screwing Over Customers Who Want Books From Hachette

from the this-may-not-end-well dept

Amazon, it seems, would like to call regulator attention to potentially anti-competitive practices, while at the same time, screwing over its customers. In a move that seems short-sighted and dangerous on multiple levels, Amazon is apparently trying to punish publishing giant Hachette by pissing off Amazon customers who want any Hachette book. Amazon is apparently unhappy with its current negotiations over a new deal with Hachette, and has decided to passive aggressively take it out on both Hachette and Amazon customers:
Among Amazon's tactics against Hachette, some of which it has been employing for months, are charging more for its books and suggesting that readers might enjoy instead a book from another author. If customers for some reason persist and buy a Hachette book anyway, Amazon is saying it will take weeks to deliver it.
In general, we tend to be quite wary of overaggressive antitrust regulation -- which too often appears to target "big" rather than "abusive in a way that harms consumers." However, this seems like a pretty clear case in which Amazon is using its market power to be abusive in a manner that harms customers, for no reason other than to abuse its market position. I tend to like Amazon, and frequently distrust the big NY publishers, which regularly react poorly to useful innovations like those from Amazon. But in this case, Amazon appears to go way too far, in not just punishing Hachette, but also Amazon's users, delaying delivering for no reason at all or pushing them towards books they don't want, just based on who published each book.

It wouldn't surprise me to find out that Hachette's demands in the contract negotiations were also unreasonable, but even if that's true, Amazon should not respond by punishing both authors and consumers for the contractual dispute. As one analyst notes in the NY Times article above, "This could seem like they're being spiteful and petty.... That's typically not Amazon's playbook." Indeed. It's also the kind of thing that might attract the attention of the FTC, which is often on the lookout for companies behaving badly towards consumers.

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 13 May 2014 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Please Explain to me . . .

    a suggestion is made that they purchase something else instead


    This right here is a place where harm to the consumer comes in. If the consumer trusts Amazon's recommendation system and decides to purchase another book instead, they may very well end up with that doesn't meet their needs as well as the one from Hachette. Consumer harmed. Even if the consumer is stupid to trust the recommendation system, it doesn't change the fact that they have been harmed when they wouldn't otherwise have been.

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