Wednesday, 07 December 2011 08:57

EC to investigate publishers over Apple iBookstore practices

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The European Commission is investigating whether five major publishers have breached European Union rules by engaging in anticompetitive activity affecting the sale of ebooks, "possibly with the help of Apple".

The European Commission (EC) has begun a formal investigation concerning possible anti-competitive practices relating to ebook sales by publishers Hachette Livre, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck in the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA, which comprises the EU nations plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway).

"The Commission will in particular investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition in the EU or in the EEA," EC officials said.

Apple's agreements for the iBookstore reportedly allow publishers to set ebook prices, with the company taking a predetermined cut. Normally, retailers are free to set their own prices, as resale price maintenance (an arrangement where a supplier forces its resellers to keep prices above a certain level) is generally prohibited in the EU.

Earlier this year, the EC conducted "unannounced inspections" of certain companies active in ebook publishing, suspecting anticompetitive behaviour. The EC has also been cooperating with the UK Office of Fair Trading (OFT). According to the EC statement, the OFT has "closed its investigation on grounds of administrative priority" but will continue to cooperate with the EC investigation.


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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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