The pricing of ebooks is to be investigated by the Office of Fair Trading after the watchdog received a number of complaints over the introduction of the agency pricing model which sees publishers set the final retail price of ebooks.
The OFT says it will investigate “whether arrangements that certain publishers have put in place with some retailers for the sale of e-books may breach competition rules.”
Some publishers adopted agency pricing in order to sell books through Apple’s iBooks app and then extended the model to other retailers including Amazon’s Kindle store.
In October Amazon’s UK Kindle team published a blog post in which they claimed moving to the agency model would “raise prices on e-books for consumers almost across the board” although they subsequently moved to agency terms for ebooks published by Hachette, HarperCollins and Penguin.
The OFT has stressed that the investigation is at an early stage and that it does not imply any publisher or retailer has broken UK or EU competition law.