Office of Fair Trading to investigate ebook agency model

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has announced that it will be conducting an invesitigation into anticompetitive behaviour by firms with regards to the use of the ‘agency model’ by publishers in relation to the sale of e-books.

TechEye spoke to the OFT which was extremely tight lipped about the investigation as it is at its very early stage.

It said that, following a number of complaints. the OFT would be looking into whether “arrangements that certain publishers have put into place for the sale of e-books may breach competition rules.”

The OFT is adamant that at this early stage in the investigation no fingers are being pointed with regards to the actual breaching of competition, and have not named any of the  firms involved in making the complaints.

The investigation will be under the Competition Act 1998 which prohibits agreements, practices and conduct that may have a damaging effect on competition in the UK.

Essentially the agency model means that publishers are able to dictate the prices of ebook products, with firms such as HarperCollins and Penguin able to determine how much consumers pay for their ebooks rather than the vendor, by which the pricing is typically determined having purchased from the publisher.

Keegan Wilson from Pop Cult magazine believes that if people were not willing to pay the prices set by the publishers then they would not buy them

“If people are paying those prices, and are willing to continue paying those prices, how can they  be wrong?” Wilson commented.

“ My concern is with the closure of public libraries and now this, is there a danger of denying the pleasure of reading to those who can’t afford it? Also, does overpricing encourage piracy? Look at DVDs and music, once overpriced and now worthless.”