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EU investigates Apple, publishers over e-book sales

Apple, Penguin and four other publishers are being investigated for possible breaches of the EU’s competition rules.

Penguin and Apple (geddit?) are among those being investigated by the Commission.
Penguin and Apple (geddit?) are among those being investigated by the Commission.
Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION is investigating Apple Ltd and five major publishers including Penguin and Simon & Schuster over possible anti-competitive practices in the sale of e-books.

The Commission said today that it has begun formal antitrust proceedings to investigate if publishers Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (owner of Macmillan) and Hachette Livre 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 European Economic Area”.

Today’s announcement follows a number of inspections carried out by the Commission in March on companies involved in e-publishing.

The UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has also been investigating the issue, but said today that it has decided to close its inquiry because it believes the 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 has not reached any view as to whether or not the parties involved have infringed competition law,” it added.

Although its inquiry has ended, the OFT will cooperate with the Commission on its investigation.

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The Commission’s inquiry will focus on the terms of agreement entered into by the publishers and the retailers of e-books over concerns that the deals have breached EU antitrust rules regarding “cartels and restrictive business practices” as covered by Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

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