Israel's Largest Bookseller Accused of Antitrust Violations

Steimatzky, the mother of all Israeli bookstore chains, is charged with two incidents of demanding promotional exclusivity of certain titles.

The Israel Antitrust Authority on Wednesday notified bookstore chain Steimatzky and its CEO Iris Barel of its intention to issue charges against them pending the outcome of a hearing. The charges stem from an investigation into suspected infractions of antitrust law by the chain and its top management.

In 1995 Steimatzky bought and merged with another Israeli bookstore chain. The merger was approved by the antitrust commissioner on condition that Steimatsky won't place any restrictions on a publisher's commercial ties with any of its customers.

The charges outlined to Steimatzky and Barel deal with two separate incidents. In the first, which cover the time period between November 2010 and July 2011, they allege that Steimatzky demanded exclusivity from several publishers in exchange for promotions in its customer club. As part of the deal, it barred those specific titles from promotions in any other store.

In the second instance, which occurred in July 2011, Steimatzky allegedly again insisted on promotional exclusivity of certain titles. In both cases Steimatzky and Barel were said to have violated the conditions of the 1995 merger.

Steimatzky responded to the allegations, stating it does not believe that either its company or its CEO violated the antitrust law. The company, it stated, has always behaved with integrity and in conformance with the law, and it believes that at the upcoming hearing on the matter, it will be able to explain its position.

Daniel Tchetchik