Apple and five different ebook publishers around the world are facing an antitrust inquiry from the European Commission, according to Computerworld. Commissioners want to know whether the targets colluded to fix the prices of electronic books.
A spokesperson said the commission suspects the publishers (Hachette Livre, Macmillan, Penguin, Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster) together with Apple, which sells ebooks for its iPhone, iPods and iPads, agreed to fix publication and price schedules for ebooks. If such an agreement existed, then European law was broken and the companies could face stiff penalties.
There is no indication yet how long the investigation could last or what those penalties might be. On the other hand, it's also possible that the companies may agree to lower prices before official findings are handed down. Apple's concessions on the prices of digital music in the UK a few years ago convinced the commission to drop its probe into digital music price fixing, as writer Gregg Keizer points out.
In the U.S., the same companies face a lawsuit alleging they had a similar arrangement here.