Feeds

Apple probed by EC antitrust arm over ebooks market

Did publishers and Cupertino stifle competition in EU?

The essential guide to IT transformation

Brussels opened a formal investigation into the sales of ebooks in Europe this morning to determine whether five publishers, with the help of Apple, had breached competition rules within the EU.

In a statement, the European Commission listed News Corp-owned, US-based Harper Collins; France-based Hachette Livre, which is owned by Lagardère Publishing; Pearson Group's Penguin in the UK; CBS-owned, US-based Simon & Schuster; and Germany-based Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck, which owns, inter alia, Macmillan.

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 [European Economic Area].

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 Commission has concerns, that these practices may breach EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union – TFEU).

Brussels said it was unable to give a deadline for when the investigation would be completed due to a number of factors, including the complexity of each case.

In March this year, the Commission surprised several premises of various companies that do business in the ebook publishing sector, by arriving unannounced to carry out inspections.

The EC said that the UK's Office of Fair Trading (OFT) had been investigating the matter in parallel with Brussels to probe whether business practices for the sale of ebooks breached competition rules.

In a separate statement, the OFT said:

The OFT has decided to close its investigation into whether arrangements that certain publishers have put in place with some retailers for the sale of e-books may breach competition rules.

This decision has been taken on the grounds of the OFT's administrative priorities, in particular because the OFT believes, following discussions with the European Commission, that the European Commission is currently well placed to arrive at a comprehensive resolution of this matter and will do so as a matter of priority.

The OFT will continue to cooperate closely with the European Commission on this matter to help secure the best outcome for UK consumers.

The OFT may reconsider its decision, in consultation with the European Commission, in the future if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that there is an infringement of competition law, which may have an impact on UK consumers.

The OFT has not reached any view as to whether or not the parties involved have infringed competition law.

Apple and the publishers now under investigation by the antitrust wing of Brussels have been told that proceedings are underway, the EC said. ®

The essential guide to IT transformation

More from The Register

next story
GCHQ protesters stick it to British spooks ... by drinking urine
Activists told NOT to snap pics of staff at the concrete doughnut
Britain's housing crisis: What are we going to do about it?
Rent control: Better than bombs at destroying housing
What do you mean, I have to POST a PHYSICAL CHEQUE to get my gun licence?
Stop bitching about firearms fees - we need computerisation
Top beak: UK privacy law may be reconsidered because of social media
Rise of Twitter etc creates 'enormous challenges'
Redmond resists order to hand over overseas email
Court wanted peek as related to US investigation
Ex US cybersecurity czar guilty in child sex abuse website case
Health and Human Services IT security chief headed online to share vile images
NZ Justice Minister scalped as hacker leaks emails
Grab your popcorn: Subterfuge and slur disrupts election run up
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.