According to coverage in the Australian Financial Review, Australia’s competition authority, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, is taking a hands-off attitude to Apple’s e-book pricing practices past and present, despite pressure from some quarters to act in a similar fashion to the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division and bring a price-fixing case. Independent Senator for South Australia Nick Xenophon, one of the more outspoken and vocal advocates of consumer rights in Australia, issued a release earlier in July entitled “Rotten Apple?” calling on “the ACCC to initiate an urgent investigation into Apple, following the damning US Court decision. However, according to the reports, the ACCC has now decided not to act.
“Senator Xenophon pointed to changes to consumer laws that made cartel behaviour a criminal offence in Australia in 2009, with sweeping powers for regulators to investigate claims,” Xenophon’s release continued. “The ACCC has had these powers for four years now, and this is an ideal opportunity to test them.” Additionally, “Senator Xenophon called on Apple management in Australia to assure the public that Australian consumers were not also ripped off.”
However, according to the report in the AFR, the ACCC stated: “the conduct of concern occurred in the US and we note that conduct is being sanctioned by the regulator in the US … the ACCC will continue to follow developments to assess whether further follow-up is required in Australia.” As of now, the ACCC has made no formal statement on its website about the case.
Unsurprisingly, the reports also included the by-now inevitable comparison to Amazon and its influence on the ebook market. One former president of the Australian Booksellers Association, Jon Page, was quoted as defending the agency model, which still exerts a strong influence in Australia, and condemning Amazon for “predatory pricing.”
Interestingly, Page also called on Australian publishers to take action against Amazon – though I don’t see quite how this has any bearing on the activities of U.S. publishers in the Apple price-fixing case. Page also warned about potential Amazon dominance of the ebook market in Australia – though once again, I don’t see Australian publishers moving to take any concerted action to keep Amazon at bay Down Under.