South African publishers investigated for alleged price-fixing

South African publishers investigated for alleged price-fixing

The Publishers’ Association of South Africa (PASA) and its 91 members are under investigation by the country's competition authority over alleged price-fixing on books.

PASA, which is the largest publishing industry body in South Africa, comprises publishers including the South African branches of international publishers Oxford University Press, Taylor & Francis, Macmillan, Pan Macmillan, Pearson and Penguin Random House, as well as book importers, sellers of books, government departments and education providers.

South Africa's Competition Commission issued a statement last week saying its commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele had initiated an investigation (complaint), having received information indicating the association and its members "may have been involved in fixing prices of books in contravention of the Competition Act". This entailed allegedly agreeing to fix prices and trading conditions for the sale of educational books and support materials - from pre-school through to student textbooks - as well as for trade books and e-books.

The price-fixing arrangement "appears to be historic in the industry dating back as early as [the] 1980s", the Commission said.

Bonakele commented: "Given how widespread the practise is and the importance of the products, we expect the participants to cooperate with the investigation by, by among other things, immediately bringing their cartel activities to a stop and approaching the Competition Commission."

PASA's executive director, Mpuka Radinku, responded by issuing a short statement saying the body had "noted a media statement issued by the Competition Commission on 29 August 2018 indicating that PASA and its members will be investigated for ‘fixing prices of books’".

"PASA is aware of the investigation and has been co-operating with the Commission. PASA further notes that its Constitution and Code of conduct do not allow the Association and its members to get involved or participate in anti-competitive practices," it finished.

None of the member publishers contacted by The Bookseller have yet responded to a request for comment.