European Regulators Investigating Apple and e-Book Publishers over Antitrust Concerns
Bloomberg reports that the European Commission has launched an antitrust investigation targeting Apple and five e-book publishers. The publishers targeted in the investigation include five of the six major book publishers: Hachette, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, and Macmillan.
PricewaterhouseCoopers said in a January report that European e-book sales have been sluggish, partly due to the small range of non-English titles and fixed price agreements between publishers and stores in 13 countries. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said last month that he wanted to fight “artificial restrictions imposed by some companies to cross-border trade” and was examining the way e-books are distributed.
Today’s probe “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,” the Brussels-based authority said.
Apple has been targeted by a number of investigations and lawsuits related to its remaking of the book industry. With the launch of its iBookstore, Apple reached agreements with major publishers to adopt an "agency model" in which publishers retain control over sales prices and retailers receive a 30% share of that sales price. Previously, retailers had paid set wholesale prices for books and then priced them for sale at their discretion. With Apple driving the shift to an agency model, Amazon and other major retailers quickly followed suit.