E-book publishers and Apple reach new deal with Competition Bureau over pricing

Three major book publishers have signed an agreement with Canadian competition authorities that will permit retailers to sell those publishers' e-books at a discount — something they couldn't do before.
The Competition Bureau’s investigation concluded that an anti‑competitive arrangement between HarperCollins, its competitors and Apple ultimately led to higher price e-book prices for Canadian consumers. (CBC)

Three major book publishers have signed a deal with Canada's Competition Bureau that will allow retailers to sell those publishers' e-books at whatever price they want — something they couldn't do before.

Holtzbrinck (which operates under the Macmillan brand name)  along with Simon & Schuster and Hachette​ have come to an agreement that could allow electronic book sellers such as Apple and Kobo to set the prices of books they sell by those publishing houses.

Previously, the terms of those contracts forbade resellers from altering book prices in any way, which means that prices for consumers were virtually identical, no matter where they bought the book.

A previous agreement involving the three publishers and HarperCollins was rescinded by the Competition Tribunal last June after two years of litigation with Kobo, which challenged the 2014 deal.

HarperCollins is not included in Friday's agreement, so the bureau is now seeking "an order to stop its alleged anti‑competitive conduct."

Prior to the agreement, the bureau alleges that the publishers "co-ordinated with their competitors" to "eliminate retail price competition" among e-book sellers, the bureau says in a filing against HarperCollins.

"This case is about protecting Canadian consumers and ensuring a competitive and innovative digital economy," Canada's commissioner of competition John Pecman said in a statement.

"I commend Apple, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster for entering into consent agreements that resolve my concerns related to their conduct. As no agreement was reached with HarperCollins, I am taking action today to address its ongoing restrictions on competition in Canada."