European Commission Targets Apple, Publishers in E-Books Antitrust Probe
December 6, 2011 12:55 PM
The European Commission has announced that it is opening a formal antitrust investigation into whether five international e-book publishers have been practicing anti-competitive tactics with the help of Apple
The European Commission has launched an antitrust investigation Tuesday that will determine if
international e-book publishers
and Apple have been partaking in anti-competitive activities.
Back in March of this year, the European Commission raided various e-book firms to see whether the sale of e-books breached competition rules. Around the same time, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the United Kingdom launched its own investigation into e-book prices. The European Commission and OFT had been working together through the year on the probe, but the OFT is now shutting its investigation down.
Now, the European Commission has announced that it is opening a formal antitrust investigation into whether five international e-book publishers have been practicing anti-competitive tactics with the help of Apple and its e-book store iBooks.
The five e-book publishers targeted in the investigation are Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing France), Harper Collins (News Corp., U.S.A.), Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., U.S.A.), Penguin (Pearson Group, United Kingdom) and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (owner of inter alia Macmillan, Germany).
"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 effect of restricting competition in the EU or in the EEA," said the European Commission's press release. "The Commission is also examining the character and terms of the agency agreements entered into by the above named five publishers and retailers for the sale of e-books."
The European Commission noted that the opening of proceedings indicates that this antitrust case will be treated as a "matter of priority."
There has been quite a bit of e-book drama over the last few months. For instance, the Authors Guild posted
an angry blog entry
about Amazon's Kindle Owners' Lending Library, and just last month,
Penguin suspended the availability of its e-books to libraries
saying that libraries are not allowed to loan e-books for the Kindle. Penguin even went to business partner OverDrive asking that it eliminate its "Get for Kindle" button for Penguin books.
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