The Publishers’ Association of SA (Pasa) says it is co-operating with an investigation by the Competition Commission into possible cartel behaviour by the local publishing industry.

The commission announced on Wednesday that it would investigate Pasa and its 91 members for allegedly fixing the price of books.

"Pasa … notes that its constitution and code of conduct do not allow the association and its members to get involved or participate in anticompetitive practices‚" Pasa executive director Mpuka Radinku said in a statement on Thursday.

Announcing the investigation on Wednesday‚ the commission said 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".

It said Pasa and its members had allegedly agreed to fix prices and trading conditions for pre-school to grade 12 books‚ associated teachers’ guides and support materials.

The commission said the association and its members had also agreed to fix prices of student textbooks‚ learning material‚ associated teachers’ guides and support material for technical and vocational education and training colleges.

The prices of textbooks and other publications for learning at tertiary education institutions were also allegedly fixed.

Trade books (books for sale to the general public) and e-books were also said to have been fixed.

The commission added that an alleged price-fixing arrangement "appears to be historic in the industry, dating back as early as [the] 1980s".

"Given how widespread the practice is and the importance of the products‚ we expect the participants to co-operate 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.