The European Commission today announced that it has opened formal antitrust proceedings to investigate whether publishers, in cahoots with Apple, have engaged in anti-competitive price fixing of eBooks in the European Economic Area (EEA).
Specifically, the commission is looking into possible collusion between 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).
According to a press release, the EU will investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements that resulted in a restriction of competition in the EU or in the EEA.
The investigation dates back to March 2011, when the commission carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several companies active in the eBook publishing sector in several member states.
Apple was unavailable for comment prior to press time.
The EU says it has informed the companies and the competition authorities of the member states that it has opened proceedings in this case.