EU watchdog launches antitrust probe of Apple, ebook publishers
Accuses Apple, five major publishers with price fixing
Computerworld - European Union (EU) antitrust regulators today launched a formal investigation into how Apple and several major publishers priced electronic books.
The European Commission said it was targeting five book publishers -- France's Hachette Livre, German-owned Macmillan, U.K. publisher Penguin, and U.S.-based Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster -- in a price-fixing probe.
Apple, which sells e-books through its iBooks app to owners of its iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, is also under investigation. The Cupertino, Calif. company sells ebooks via iBooks in the U.S. as well.
In a news conference after the probe was announced, a Commission spokeswoman, reiterated the reason for the investigation.
"We will conduct an investigation in order to determine whether these publishers and Apple have entered into agreements and practices to the set the ebook prices in Europe," she said.
Antitrust officials suspect that the book publishers and Apple violated EU laws by entering into a cartel, the term for a multi-corporation agreement that fixes prices and production levels.
The Commission spokeswoman said the agency has put a high priority on the investigation, "because it is an important issue for consumers."
The EU has not set a timeline for concluding the inquiry into ebook practices by Apple and the publishers, but if history is any indication, the case could linger for years. That's assuming the Commission eventually finds that EU laws were broken, as the defendants would have opportunities to respond and an oral hearing would have to take place.
Apple has given in to EU pressure previously. In 2008, the company reduced prices of iTunes music downloads in the U.K. in a deal that saw the Commission drop its probe into Apple's practices.
In the U.S., Apple faces a potential class-action lawsuit filed in August 2011 that accuses the company and the same five publishers named by the EU of ebook price fixing.
"The lawsuit alleges that the publishers and Apple colluded to increase prices for popular e-book titles to boost profits and force e-book rival Amazon to abandon its pro-consumer discount pricing," said the firm behind the lawsuit, Seattle-based Hagens Berman, in a statement at the time.
The lawsuit is currently in its opening stages, and a trial date has not yet been set by a California federal court.
Apple did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the Commission's move.
Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com.
- Apple has bigger plans than just song ID with Shazam deal
- Mac Pro shortage sets record as worst Mac production debacle
- Apple slates WWDC for June 2-6, sets up ticket lottery
- Apple patches Safari's Pwn2Own vulnerability, two-dozen other critical bugs
- Microsoft's free OneNote vaults to top of Mac App Store chart
- Apple discounts iPhone 5C 8%-9% in five markets via storage cuts
- Apple hands stock worth $12.1M to top execs in retention deal
- Hands on: Apple's Mac Pro is the fastest Mac ever
- Apple CFO to retire in September after he cashes in $53M stock award
- Apple's CarPlay to spark mobile apps war in your car
Read more about Legal in Computerworld's Legal Topic Center.
- Path Selection Infographic Path Selection Infographic
- Hyperconvergence Infographic A wide range of observers agree that data centers are now entering an era of "hyperconvergence" that will raise network traffic levels faster...
- Preparing Your Infrastructure for the Hyperconvergence Era From cloud computing and virtualization to mobility and unified communications, an array of innovative technologies is transforming today's data centers.
- How WAN Optimization Helps Enterprises Reduce Costs If you wanted to break down innovation into a tidy equation, it might go something like this: Technology + Connectivity = Productivity. Productivity...
- Cloud Knowledge Vault Learn how your organization can benefit from the scalability, flexibility, and performance that the cloud offers through the short videos and other resources...
- LIVE EVENT: 5/7, The End of Data Protection As We Know It. Introducing a Next Generation Data Protection Architecture. Traditional backup is going away, but where does this leave end-users? All Legal White Papers | Webcasts