(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
    Michael, 13 May 2014 @ 12:24pm

    I'm not entirely sure on this one - Amazon's response to the accusations is important.

    The shipping times are because the books are going out of stock - should we be blaming Amazon for not restocking their warehouses during a dispute with the publisher?

    The pricing - the article has authors complaining that the Amazon discount is only 10%. Well, if the publisher priced it correctly from the beginning, wouldn't a 10% discount be good?

    And then there is the complaints about Amazon recommending similar books that are lower priced - this may simply be a result of them not discounting them as much which could be a result of the publisher demanding more money. Amazon has had lower priced alternative ads for awhile now.

    So, at least some of this is reasonably likely to be the fault of the publishers just as much as Amazon. I think we need to watch more to find out.

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