The UK trade regulator is launching an investigation into alleged anti-competitive price-fixing deals within the nascent digital book publishing industry following a “significant number of complaints.”

The Office of Fair Trading said the investigation is “into whether arrangements that certain publishers have put in place with some retailers for the sale of e-books may breach competition rules”.

However, it added: “The investigation is at an early stage and it should not be assumed that the parties involved have breached competition law.”

The investigation follows the launch of similar enquiries in the US states of Connecticut and Texas. In the UK, if parties — including Amazon and Apple — are found to be in breach of competition law they could face fines or a requirement to reparatory action.

The OFT did not say if it had the power to put an end to the agency model Apple has pushed to becoming de rigeur in the eBook world.

With Apple’s deeply-flawed decision to reject Sony’s Reader App from its store for some clearly self-centred reason, it looks like the fate of the iBookstore is becoming ever less well-starred.

“Apple’s made no change to its App Store Guidlines, it’s simply enforcing a rule that’s been in them all along: apps that offer purchases elsewhere must support in-app purchases as well. ?We have not changed our developer terms or guidelines,” company spokesperson Trudy Miller told me. “We are now requiring that if an app offers customers the ability to purchase books outside of the app, that the same option is also available to customers from within the app with in-app purchase.”

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