EU Commission Opens Antitrust Proceedings to Investigate Pricing of eBooks

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM—Dec. 6, 2011—The European Commission has opened formal antitrust proceedings to investigate whether international book publishers have, possibly with the help of Apple, engaged in anti-competitive practices affecting the sale of eBooks in breach of EU antitrust rules. The publishers include Hachette Livre, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck.

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.

In particular, the commission will investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the intent or the effect of restricting competition in the EU or in the European Economic Area (EEA)1. The duration of antitrust investigations depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned cooperate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.

Background on the eBooks investigation

In March 2011, the commission carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several companies active in the eBook publishing sector in several EU Member States.

To date, the commission and the U.K. Office of Fair Trading (OFT) have investigated in parallel and in close cooperation whether arrangements for the sale of eBooks may breach competition rules. Before the commission opened formal proceedings, the OFT had closed its investigation on the grounds of administrative priority. The OFT has made a substantial contribution to the eBooks investigation and will continue to co-operate closely with the EU Commission going forward.

The EU Commission has informed the companies and the competition authorities of the Member States that it has opened proceedings in this case.

Source: EU Commission.