Norway’s state competition authority warned several of Norway’s leading book publishing companies on Thursday that they collectively face a whopping NOK 502 million in fines. They’re accused of illegally sharing competitvely sensitive information and thereby influencing the price of books.
Gyldendal faces the largest fine of NOK 202.4 million (around USD 22 million), followed by Cappelen Damm (NOK 151.9 million), Forlagshuset Vigmostad & Bjørke (NOK 93.4 million) and Aschehoug (NOK 50.8 million). Bokbasen, set up as book data base and in which all four publishers have ownership stakes, may be fined NOK 3.89 million after it allegedly was used as a means of exchanging information on both future book prices and book release dates.
The publishers have long been allowed to operate under a form of market regulation that has kept book prices high in Norway, in return for supporting a diverse and plentiful supply of literature published in Norwegian. They’ve been in trouble with the authorities before, facing fines also in 2017. The competition authority now has found, after an investigation begun in 2018, “systematic” abuse through a form of cooperation deemed to be illegal.
“We view this type of illegal cooperation very seriously, which the size of the fines emphasizes,” stated Gjermund Nese of the competition authority (Konkurransetilsynet) in a press release Thursday morning. He stressed that the fines are preliminary and can be challenged by the publishing companies. They have until November 24 to respond.