EU to investigate Apple and publishers over alleged ‘e-books cartel’

6 Dec 2011

The European Commission has launched formal anti-trust proceedings into whether some of the world’s largest publishers, including Harper Collins and Simon and Schuster, “possibly with the help of Apple” engaged in anti-competitive practices affecting the sales of e-books in Europe.

The European Commission’s investigation involves Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing, France), Harper Collins (News Corp., USA), Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., USA), Penguin (Pearson Group, United Kingdom) and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (owner of inter alia Macmillan, Germany).

The investigation relates to whether the publishers “have, possibly with the help of Apple, engaged in anti-competitive practices affecting the sale of e-books in the European Economic Area (EEA), in breach of EU antitrust rules. The opening of proceedings means that the commission will treat the case as a matter of priority. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.

“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.”

The commission said it is also examining the character and terms of the agency agreements entered into by the five publishers and retailers for the sale of e-books.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years