The US Justice Department is in the early stages of a possible anti-trust probe into Apple’s behavior in the online music market.
DoJ staff have talked to music labels and other web music companies, the New York Times reported, quoting sources who had been briefed on the conversations.
In particular, investigators asked about allegations that Apple had used its market dominance to persuade music labels not to take part in a recent deal with Amazon.com.
In March, Amazon had asked music companies to give it the exclusive right to sell some tracks for one day before they went on sale, promising it would package those songs into an “MP3 Daily Deal” on its website.
According to Billboard magazine, Apple had told labels not to take part in the promotion and had withdrawn marketing support in iTunes for those who did.
Apple has 69% of the US online music market. Amazon’s MP3 store is in second place with 8%.
“Though the Justice Department’s inquiry is preliminary, it represents additional evidence that Apple, once the perennial underdog in high tech, is now viewed by government regulators as a dominant company with considerable market power,” NYT said.