Books in Norway have always been expensive, with prices heavily regulated and currently equivalent to at least USD 50 for new releases. Competition authorities have been investigating, and ended up slapping the country’s biggest publishing companies this week with a total of NOK 545 million in punitive fines.
The authorities at Konkurransetilsynet accuse Aschehoug, Gyldendal, Cappelen Damm and Vigmostad & Bjørke of illegally exchanging information about their future book prices. The four publishing firms account for around 90 percent of the market in Norway and the authorities claim they can prove they shared competitively sensitive information though a database to which all had access.
The database itself, Bokbasen, has also been fined NOK 4.1 million (USD 422,000) while Aschehoug has been hit with a claim for NOK 64.6 million, Cappelen Damm NOK 131.4 million, Gyldenlag Norsk Forlag and Gyldendal ASA NOK 252.1 million and Vigmostad & Bjørke NOK 92.6 million. The fines vary according to the total revenues of each, on which the fines are based.
All are protesting the fines and denying the charges that they shared pricing information. They claim they’ll be filing appeals of their own. Gyldendal has declared that it “fundamentally disagrees” with the authorities’ conclusion, Cappelen Damm promises an appeal, Aschehoug is challenging “the quality of the authority’s work” and Vigmostad & Bjørke told newspaper DN that “this will turn into a circus.” All have six months to file their complaints with a state commission.