Norway’s four largest publishing companies (Aschehoug, Cappelen Damm, Gyldendal and the former Schibsted Forlag) have been fined NOK 32 million (USD 3.8 million) for what state competition authorities call “illegal cooperation.”
State officials at Konkurransetilsynet claimed that the publishing firms broke Norway’s competition law by “collectively boycotting” distributor Interpress, and sharing competitively sensitive information.
Interpress was, until the fall of 2014, the only real competitor to Bladcentralen, another distributor that’s jointly owned by the four large publishing firms. Interpress was owned by the Reitan retailing group, which distributed books to kiosks, grocery stores, post offices and gas stations. It suspended operations in 2014, leaving Bladcentralen as the only distributor in the market and smaller publishing firms like Juritzen and Kagge without a means of distributing their books to retailers other than bookstores, most of which are also tied to publishing companies in Norway.
Competition authorities raided the four large publishers in 2014 and, after an investigation, warned of forthcoming fines. Aschehoug has now been hit with the largest, NOK 9.66 million, followed by Cappelen Damm (NOK 9.1 million), Gyldendal (NOK 7.88 million) and Schibsted Forlag, which has since been taken over by Vigmostad & Bjørke, (NOK 4.56 million), with all the fines based on each firm’s revenues.
Cappelen Damm immediately objected to its fine, claiming it was based on “misunderstandings” and arguing that Interpress itself operated with “high costs and weak administrative routines.” Gyldendal, Aschehoug and Schibsted also objected and denied there had been any collective boycott of Interpress, other illegal cooperation or exchange of information. All were evaluating an appeal through the court system.