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Monday, January 18, 2021
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Competition Commission to investigate price-fixing of school and university textbooks

Nico Gous

The Competition Commission is set to investigate whether the Publishers’ Association of South Africa (PASA) and its 91 members have been fixing book prices.

“Commissioner [Tembinkosi Bonakele] received information pointing to the fact that the association and its members who are publishers‚ book importers and sellers of books to government departments‚ educational institutions‚ retailers among others‚ may have been involved in fixing prices of books in contravention of the Competition Act‚” the commission said in a statement.

PASA and its members allegedly agreed to fix prices for and trading conditions for: – Pre-school to Grade 12 books‚ associated teachers’ guides and support materials; – Student textbooks‚ learning material‚ associated teachers’ guides and support material for Technical and Vocational Education and Training Colleges (TVET); – Textbooks and other publications for learning at tertiary education institutions; – Trade books (books for sale to the general public); and – eBooks (electronic versions of the above-mentioned books).

The commission said the price-fixing arrangement “appears to be historic in the industry dating back as early as [the] 1980s”.

Bonakele said: “Given how widespread the practice is and the importance of the products‚ we expect the participants to cooperate with the investigation by‚ among other things‚ immediately bringing their cartel activities to a stop and approaching the Competition Commission.”

PASA members include Penguin Random House‚ Jonathan Ball Publishers‚ Juta‚ LAPA Publishers‚ Macmillan South Africa‚ Pan Macmillan‚ NB Publishers and Tafelberg.

An email to PASA was met with an out-of-office response saying the association was in its annual general meeting‚ and that emails would be responded to on Thursday.


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