The Department of Justice’s departing acting antitrust chief Sharis Pozen, who previously made some pointed but general comments to the Wall Street Journal about certain colluding businesses, has made a speech at the Brookings Institution in which she was more specific.
The speech recounted many antitrust actions over the last three and a half years, naming names such as Ticketmaster; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan; major credit card companies Visa, Mastercard, and American Express; AT&T and T-Mobile—and, of course, Apple and the Agency Five publishers:
Most recently, we announced our challenge to an illegal agreement between Apple and five of the largest book publishers in the United States—Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster. As outlined in our complaint, these companies conspired to end e-book retailers’ freedom to compete on price. As a result of this agreement, we allege consumers paid millions of dollars more for their e-books.
At the same time we filed our complaint, we reached a settlement that, if approved by the court, would resolve our challenge against Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, and would require those companies to grant retailers—such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble—the freedom to reduce prices on their e-book titles. At its heart, this case is about protecting competition, not competitors. And most importantly, it is about lower eBook prices for consumers. As I stated when we announced this action, our proposed remedy demonstrates that the antitrust laws are flexible and can keep pace with technology and a rapidly changing industry. Indeed, our settlements with the three publishers have a five-year term with a two-year “cooling off” period, representing a desire to balance the need to ensure competition is restored in this important and evolving market, while not inhibiting its growth and innovation. Our case against Apple, MacMillan and Penguin remains ongoing so as to ensure an open and competitive marketplace while we are in the early stages of emerging electronic book technology.
It remains to be seen, of course, how successful that ongoing case will be. Regardless, Pozen won’t be involved with it after this week, when she steps down to return to private practice. Pozen seems to take a lot of pride in her work, and whatever happens with the publisher antitrust action, at least she gave it a good start.
(Found via GalleyCat.)