Apple and ebook publishers in EU price fix investigation

Apple and a group of international publishers are the subject of a European Commission investigation into potential ebook antitrust behavior, it has been announced today, amid suggestions that they may have restricted competition in the EU. Hachette Livre, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Macmillan are all under the microscope over "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 European Commission began looking into claims of ebook antitrust behaviors back in March 2011, at the time working alongside the UK Office of Fair Trading which was running a parallel investigation. Since then, the UK organization has ceased its inquiry "on grounds of administrative priority" but will continue to work with the EC.

What, exactly, the "illegal agreements or practices" Apple and the publishers may have conspired over are, the EC isn't saying. However, they "may breach EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices" along with "the character and terms of the agency agreements" involved.

The investigation is being treated as "a matter of priority" though the EC says it can't estimate exactly how long the whole thing may take.

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