EU antitrust regulators investigating e-book publishers have raided several companies on suspicion of price-fixing, joining other watchdogs now looking into deals between publishers and retailers in the sector.
The European Commission said on Wednesday it had raided companies in several member states, but did not identify the firms or countries targeted in Tuesday's raids.
'The Commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and other restrictive business practices,' it said in a statement.
Britain's Office of Fair Trading (OFT), acting on complaints, opened a probe in January into e-book sales arrangements between certain publishers and some retailers, to see if they breached competition rules.
'We are working closely with the OFT, we are aware of their investigation,' EU Commission spokeswoman Amelia Torres said.
Among the firms active in e-books are Germany's Bertelsmann , British-based Pearson Plc and Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, and Hachette Livre, a unit of France's Lagardere SCA.
Pearson's Penguin unit and News Corp's book publisher Harper Collins are both under investigation by the OFT, but said they had not been raided by EU regulators.
Neither world No. 1 book publisher Random House nor any other Bertelsmann units have been approached by the Commission, Bertelsmann spokesman Andreas Grafemeyer said.
Bloomsbury was not immediately available for comment.
Devices such as Amazon Inc.'s Kindle and Apple Inc's iPad tablet computer and readers from Sony have created a fast-growing mass market for e-books, which are typically priced lower than hardcover editions.
In the United States, the Connecticut Attorney General opened an investigation in October last year into deals Amazon and Apple had struck with publishers to offer low prices on electronic books, saying these may block rivals from providing attractive pricing.
The Stoxx Europe media index was down 0.1 percent by 1438 GMT.
(Additional reporting by Pete Harrison and David Brunnstrom in Brussels and Paul Sandle in London; Editing by Rex Merrifield and Jane Merriman) Keywords: EU MEDIA/ANTITRUST Keywords: EU MEDIA/ANTITRUST
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