Did Apple conspire with major publishers to increase e-book prices? The European Commission has launched an antitrust probe of Apple and five publishers amid claims the industry was “terrified” by Amazon’s $9.99 e-book push. At the heart is Apple’s iBookstore and the tech giant’s “agency model” that a California lawsuit charges inflated book prices.
The EC earlier tossed the European offices of Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, Penguin and other publishers under investigation. In a statement, European regulatory agency said it “has concerns, that these practices may breach EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.”
Seems many of those concerns stem from a last-minute deal Steve Jobs cut in order to get publishers onboard iBookstore, which launched in January 2010 and was largely overtaken by the iPad’s release. A class action lawsuit filed in California calls Jobs “a co-conspirator as terrified [as publishers] were over Amazon’s popularity and pricing structure.”
Not wanting to act alone to push up e-book prices, the publishers and Apple “solved this problem through coordinating between themselves (and Apple) to force Amazon to abandon its pro-consumer pricing,” claims the lawsuit filed by the Hagens Berman litigation group. The legal challenge describes the supposed cartel forcing “the discounting of eBook prices and uniformly raise prices on all first release fiction and nonfiction published” by the bookmakers.
The EC said there is no idea how long the probe will last.