Australia next to take aim at Apple over e-book pricing?

A new report out of the country says that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is at least considering launching an investigation into Apple.

Don Reisinger
Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
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Just one day after Apple was charged by the U.S. Department of Justice with artificially inflating e-book prices, a report out of Australia says competition watchdogs in that country are considering doing the same.

The Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has asked local retailers who are concerned about e-book pricing to formally file a complaint with its office, according to The Australian Financial Review. The move could prove to be a precursor to a full investigation of Apple's e-book practices.

"Competition concerns may arise where traders seek to restrict the discounting of products by way of restrictive arrangements with suppliers," the ACCC told the Financial Review. "Retailers with concerns should raise them with the ACCC."

The Justice Department filed formal charges against Apple and several e-book publishers yesterday, saying that the iPhone maker "facilitated the publisher defendants' collective effort to end retail price competition by coordinating their transition to an agency model across all retailers."

That agency model stands at the center of the Justice Department's concerns. When Apple launched its iBooks platform in 2010, e-book publishers started setting the prices of their own e-books. Apple then shared 30 percent of the revenue generated from each sale. The move effectively inflated prices over the previous wholesale model employed by Amazon, which bought e-books at a lower price and then sold it at its own retail rate. The wholesale model delivers strikingly lower prices than those affected by the agency model.

Although three e-book publishers have already settled with the Justice Department, Apple seems willing to battle it out in court and assert its innocence.

How it'll respond to Australia, though, remains to be seen. The ACCC has yet to show its hand, and there's a chance it might not even go further with its Apple investigation, but according to the Financial Review, it's keep a close eye on the battle brewing in the U.S.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.