Amazon, Apple under investigation for e-book pricing

Amazon, Apple under investigation for e-book pricing

<p>Amazon.com and Apple are under investigation by a US attorney general for using most favoured nation clauses in their agreements with publishers to sell e-books.</p><p>The office of Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal revealed late yesterday he was looking into agreements about the sale of e-books that &quot;may block competitors from offering cheaper e-book prices&quot;. </p><p>Publishers including Hachette, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon &amp; Schuster and Macmillan have been named, although only the two retailers have been approached. Blumenthal has sent letters to Amazon and Apple, calling them to his office to address concerns over these arrangements, saying they &quot;appear to deter certain publishers from offering discounts to Amazon and Apple&rsquo;s competitors - because they must offer the same to Amazon and Apple&quot;.</p><p>A preliminary review by his office found that e-book prices offered by Amazon, Apple, Borders and Barnes &amp; Noble for &quot;several New York Times Bestseller books were identical among all four sellers&quot;.</p><p>Blumenthal said: &quot;These agreements among publishers, Amazon and Apple appear to have already resulted in uniform prices for many of the most popular e-books - potentially depriving consumers of competitive prices. </p><p>&quot;The e-book market is set to explode - with analysts predicting that e-book readers will be among the holiday season&rsquo;s biggest electronic gifts - warranting prompt review of the potential anti-consumer impacts.</p><p>&quot;Amazon and Apple combined will likely command the greatest share of the retail e-book market, allowing their most-favored-nation clauses to effectively set the floor prices for the most popular e-books. Such agreements - especially when offered to two of the largest e-book retail competitors in the United States - threaten to encourage coordinated pricing and discourage discounting.&quot;</p><p><a href="http://online.wsj.com/article/SB1000142405274870396120457528117381106362... target="_blank">The news follows a series of reports claiming Texas&#39; attorney general Greg Abbott was making preliminary inquiries into Apple&#39;s iBook Store over anti-competition laws. At the time, Hachette Book Group chief executive David Young and a spokesperson from HarperCollins were quoted as saying they had been approached by the office, but declined to comment further. </a></p>