E-Book prices may head south as Apple are accused of price fixing with publishers.

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And after being accused of price fixing electronic books by the US government this week, the row may have implications for Aussie consumers if Apple are found guilty of anti-competitive behaviour.

The Australian consumer watchdog, ACCC, said today that it is “aware of the developments in other jurisdictions concerning e-book publishing and pricing” and called on OZ retailers to raise any concerns they have with them.

Cupertino has been formally accused of colluding with five book publishers just prior to the launch of its iPad back in 2010, including Harper Collins (owned by News Corp), Simon & Schuster (owned by CBS) Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group, Macmillan and Penguin, to fix the price of e-book titles.

Read: Apple Deny Price Fixing (Accuse “Monopolistic” Amazon Instead)

The case was formally filed against Apple and publishers on Wednesday at the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

And now it look like three out of five publishers, including Rupert Murdoch’s Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster, have agreed to settle the case with the US Department of Justice, reports Reuters, meaning e-book prices could fall significantly very soon – to the joy of readers globally (and Amazon too).

Steve Jobs is thought to have developed the “agency model” which prevented rival retailers from selling ebooks at a lower price.


To prevent rival Amazon flogging cheap e-books titles for its Kindle readers, who used sell them for as little as $0.99c. The iPad maker took a 30% cut on every e-book sold so it was in their interests to keep prices as high as possible, in order to fatten profits.

Immediately after the agreement in 2010 prices rose by $2-$3 in a matter of days, US authorities believe.

Apple currently flogs around 700,000 titles in its iBook store which can be viewed on it iPhone, iPad or iPod. Steve Jobs’ book by Walter Isaacson sells at US$14.99, while other books titles can cost as much as $24.99.

When asked by SmartHouse whether Aussie e-book consumers may be entitled to refunds if Apple is found guilty of price fixing, the ACCC spokesperson refused to comment.

However, the watchdog previously warned “impediments to emerging competition involving online traders is an area of priority” for the ACCC. 


“Competition concerns may arise [for the ACCC] where traders seek to restrict the discounting of products by way of restrictive arrangements with suppliers.”

However, it is not certain if the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission could prosecute Apple here, with the spokesperson adding “whether competition concerns arise depends on the circumstances.”

However, it wouldn’t be the first time the ACCC has gone after Apple, with it finding the iPad 4G advertisment “misleading” for Aussie consumers just this month and ordering Cupertino to give consumers a full refund.

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