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APEC: European Commission Examines Possible Infringement of EU Competition Rules by Apple

(Dec. 20, 2011) On December 6, 2011, parallel to the United States Department of Justice's announcement that it will examine possible collusion between Apple Incorporated and five international publishing houses, the European Commission initiated its own investigation proceedings of Apple and the five firms for fixing prices of e-books in violation of European Union (EU) anti-trust rules. (Press Release, IP/11/1509, European Commission, Antitrust: Commission Opens Formal Proceedings to Investigate Sales of e-Books (Dec. 6, 2011).)

The focus of the Commission's investigations will be whether Apple and Hachette Livre (France), Harper Collins (U.S.), Simon & Schuster (U.S.), Penguin (United Kingdom), and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck (Germany) “have engaged in illegal agreements or practices that would have the object or effect of restricting competition” in e-book sales in the EU or the European Economic Area (the 27 EU Members plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). Such practices would be incompatible with article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which prohibits cartels and restrictive business practices. (Id.)

The Commission, as the EU's enforcement authority in antitrust investigations, first began to investigate possible illegal activities in March 2011, when it inspected the premises of several publishing houses in a number of EU Member States. The Commission has notified the companies affected and the competition authorities of the EU Members about the opening of the investigations. (Id.)