Following a recent antitrust investigation launched against Apple and ebook publishers by the European Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice has now formally opened an investigation as well.
The investigation seeks to determine whether Apple and ebook publishers are involved in price-fixing tactics. Apple is accused of using nonstandard pricing tactics in order to challenge competitors like Amazon.
Some suggest that Apple advocating an “agency model,” in which they take a 30% cut of sales and allow publishers to set prices, is an anticompetitive and illegal tactic, as opposed to fixed-price sales of ebooks to sellers, who would then determine pricing on their own.
It’ll be interesting to see how this all pans out – it certainly does seem as if ebook prices have increased recently, and Amazon, Apple, and other retailers adopting the agency model just might be at the core of the problem.