EU fair trading officials and local national partner agencies have carried out raids at an unknown number of publishers across Europe.
In a statement issued today, the European Commission announced “that on 1 March 2011 Commission officials initiated unannounced inspections at the premises of companies that are active in the e-book (electronic or digital books) publishing sector in several Member States. The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and other restrictive business practices (Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).
The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.
Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices. The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself. The Commission respects the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings.
There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned co-operate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.”
The raid is the latest development surrounding the price of ebooks and follows news that the UK’s Office of Fair Trading’s is investigating the agency pricing model whereby publishers set the retail price of ebooks and pay a commission to the retailer.
As with the EU statement, the OFT has stressed that the investigation does not imply any publisher or retailer has broken UK or EU competition law.