Apple and eBook publishers in anti-trust probe

Apple and five of its eBook publishers are now being investigated by the European Commission (EC) for anti-trust practices, where it's alleged the companies attempted to stifle competition in the region.

The commission takes over from the UK's Office of Fair Trading, which began its own investigation in February but is now stepping aside to allow the EC to take the helm. The five eBook publishers being looked into are Hachette Livre, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck.

Apple is also being looked into, with the collective of publishers and their deals coming under scrutiny. “The commission has concerns that these practices may breach EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices,” the EC said in a statement.

"The commission will in particular 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."

Assosciated Press has it that the EC will also be looking into "agency agreements" where publishers set a price for their eBooks with retailers taking a cut of the profits.

These aren't the only companies drawing attention for their practices in the eBook marketplace. Amazon recently garnered the ire of the Authors' Guild in America for offering users of the Kindle eReader free books. While this might make sense for the retail giant and perhaps publishers too, individual writers might not take to kindly to their novels being used as incentives to buy other books. The argument put forth by the Guild was that it demeaned certain authors.