Considers imposing fines on five companies in the book market totalling NOK 502 million

The Norwegian Competition Authority warns in a statement of objections that it considers imposing fines of NOK 502 million in total on the four publishers Cappelen Damm, Forlagshuset Vigmostad & Bjørke, Gyldendal and Aschehoug, and the book database company Bokbasen. The Competition Authority’s preliminary assessment is that these businesses have cooperated illegally by sharing competitive sensitive information concerning, amongst other things, future book prices and the timing of book releases. 

The Competition Authority considers imposing a fine of NOK 3.89 million on Bokbasen, a fine of NOK 151.9 million on Cappelen Damm, a fine of NOK 93.4 million on Forlagshuset Vigmostad & Bjørke, a fine of NOK 202.4 million on Gyldendal and a fine of NOK 50.8 million on Aschehoug. The Authority also intends to hold the publishers’ respective parent companies jointly and severally liable for the infringement.

– We take this type of illegal cooperation very seriously, something that is also reflected in the size of the fines the Authority considers imposing. Our preliminary assessment is that the publishers’ exchange of information is capable of restricting competition to the detriment of consumers by making it possible for publishers to coordinate the prices of books, the selection of books available and the timing of new releases, says Gjermund Nese, Director at the Norwegian Competition Authority.

The Competition Authority’s view is that the practices in question have restricted competition by object in breach of the prohibition against anti-competitive agreements and concerted practices in Section 10 of the Competition Act and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement.

Information exchanged via database operated by Bokbasen
The exchange of information has taken place via a database operated by Bokbasen. The publishers have subscribed to a service provided by Bokbasen, which has given them access to information about the other publishers’ book releases. The four publishers all have an ownership interest in Bokbasen and are represented in its Board of Directors. The publishers have had an insight into and influence over the operations of Bokbasen, including the services offered and the information that could be exchanged via the database. The Competition Authority’s preliminary assessment is that Bokbasen has participated in the infringement by facilitating the information exchange. The Competition Authority considers that the illegal conduct has been ongoing for several years.

– It is the Competition Authority’s assessment that the publishers systematically have inserted information about their own book releases into the database, and that they have been aware of the fact that other publishers could access this information. Information exchanges about future prices are at the core of what is regarded as harmful to competition, and may lead to higher prices for consumers, says Project Manager Jan Petter Fedje at the Competition Authority.

The Competition Authority wishes to emphasise that the findings in the Statement of Objections are preliminary and do not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. The companies have been invited to submit their comments on the Statement of Objections by 24 November 2020.

 

This is the case:

  • The Norwegian Competition Authority carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of the companies concerned in January 2018.
  • The Norwegian Competition Authority has analysed substantial amounts of data, and conducted several interviews, in the course of its investigation.
  • The Norwegian Competition Authority issued a Statement of Objections against the companies involved on 23 September 2020.
  • The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries has appointed Eirik Stolt-Nielsen as substitute Director General for Lars Sørgard, who recused himself from the case.
Gjermund Nese, Director at the Norwegian Competition Authority.
Jan Petter Fedje, Project Manager at the Competition Authority.

Contact information

Press phone +47  47 66 77 77

Gjermund Nese,
Director at the Norwegian Competition Authority
gjne@kt.no
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Jan Petter Fedje,
Project Manager at the Competition Authority.
japf@kt.no
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