According to Bloomberg, the European Union Anti-trust regulators will be investigating Apple, along with five of the major eBook publishers, for possible collusion to help stifle competition within the eBook marketplace.
The European Commission in Brussels today said it opened a formal probe to examine whether the publishing groups and Apple, maker of the iPad tablet computer, engaged in agreements that would harm competition in the 27-nation EU. The probe will examine deals between Apple and Lagardere’s Hachette Livre, News Corp.’s Harper Collins, CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster, Pearson Plc’s Penguin and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH.
The commission believes Apple and the publishers may have formed a sort of 'cartel' in the eBook market by practicing price-fixing techniques in order to ensure an ongoing revenue stream for all parties. Apple currently takes a 30% cut of eBook sales from within their own iBookstore.
This announcement comes after the EU conducted raides on a handful of publishers back in March along with a held conducted by the U.K. Office of Fair Trading. The publishers, of course, say they haven't done anything wrong and will work closely with the EU to help get to the bottom of it.
Fortune chimed in saying the reason the EU included Apple is because of a deal Steve Jobs set up with the five publishers shortly after the release of the original iPad in 2010, which was followed by a similar investigation in the U.S. looking into anti-competitive behavior with Apple and the publishers to help drive up eBook prices from Amazon.
It will be interesting to see how this one plays out and if the impact, if any, has any direct relation to eBook pricing as it currently stands.