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​Amazon accused of antitrust violations in Germany

Amazon (AMZN) is getting on the bad side of book publishers.

With the retailer in an ongoing dispute with Hachette in the U.S., it's now also facing a complaint from the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, which is accusing the online store of violating that country's competition laws.

The complaint alleges that Amazon, in seeking lower ebook prices from publishers, has delayed delivery of some printed books as a pressure tactic. The allegation is similar to reports about Amazon's dispute with Hachette, with the retailer reportedly seeking discounts on ebooks. For American customers, that's meant Amazon has pulled pre-order buttons or delayed shipments of books from best-selling Hachette authors such as J.K. Rowling and Michael Connelly.

The German complaint is asking the Bundeskartellamt, the country's federal antitrust authority, to investigate the retailer.

The complaint comes after German authors noted that some books sold by Amazon were suddenly taking as long as 11 days to deliver, The New York Times reported last month. Then Bonnier, a large media group, informed its authors that it was in negotiations with Amazon over ebook pricing.

In its statement about the complaint, the German publishers' group alleged that the tactic represents an abuse of Amazon's power, given that publishers have almost no alternatives to turn to without suffering a loss in sales. About 70 percent of ebooks and printed books in Germany are purchased online through Amazon, the group added.

Amazon said in an emailed statement that the allegation of delayed shipments is "not true." The retailer is "currently buying less print inventory than we ordinarily do on some titles from the publisher Bonnier. We are shipping orders immediately if we have inventory on hand," the company said.

The company added that it believes ebooks should cost less than printed books, given they require no paper, warehousing or shipping. "For the vast majority of the books we sell from Bonnier (a division of the 3 billion Euro international media conglomerate, Bonnier Media Group AB), they are asking us to pay them significantly more when we sell a digital edition than when we sell a print edition of the same title," Amazon said.

The Bundeskartellamt must next decide whether it will open proceedings against Amazon, Germany's Deutsche Welle reports.

The U.S. dispute continues to drag on between Hachette and Amazon, with the retailer also reportedly demanding payments from Hachette for services such as personalized recommendations and the pre-order button.

Meanwhile, that's provided a boost to some local booksellers, since customers are turning to bricks-and-mortar stores to pick up copies of Rowling's "The Silkworm" (which Amazon says will take 2 to 4 weeks to ship) and Stephen Colbert's "America Again" (3 to 5 weeks.)

Online competitors have also leaped into the breach, with both Walmart (WMT) and Apple (AAPL) offering Hachette titles at a discount. Colbert has started a hashtag called "#CutDowntheAmazon" and redirected fans to buy from independent bookstore Powell's.

Colbert said on his show earlier this month, referring to Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, "So watch out Bezos because this means war."

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