The fruity cargo cult Apple and five publishers are being formally investigated by the European Commission for forming a pact which keeps ebook prices high. The EC said it was examining whether five publishers have "possibly, with the help of Apple, engaged in anti-competitive practices affecting the sale of ebooks" in Europe.
Opening of proceedings means that the Commission will treat the case as a matter of priority, the Commission said. Named and shamed in the anticompetitive league against the consumer was Penguin, Hachette Livre, Harper Collins, Simon and Schuster, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck.
In a press release the EC said that it will investigate whether these publishing groups and Apple have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or the effect of restricting competition in the EU or in the EEA. "The Commission is also examining the character and terms of the agency agreements entered into by the above named five publishers and retailers for the sale of ebooks."
In March, the Commission raided several unnamed ebook firms, while the Office of Fair Trading in the UK started its own investigation into ebook prices in February. The OFT and EC had been working together on the probe, but the UK body will now shut its investigation down.
The publishers think that has given them the all clear, however it is more likely that the OFT is just duplicating the EC's work. Penguin said that it does not believe it has breached any laws, and will continue to fully and openly cooperate with the Commission. Apple said nothing.