Apple, Publishers Settle EU Antitrust Probe

Apple and four publishers--Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette and Holtzbrinck, parent company of Macmillan--officially ended a European Union antitrust investigation after regulators accepted their settlement offer to overhaul pricing for digital books, Bloomberg reported. Such settlements allow regulators to end an investigation without imposing fines or determining that the companies violated competition rules.

Under the terms of the settlement, Apple and the publishers "will avoid any agreement limiting retailers' pricing for five years and the publishers will also allow retailers to discount e-books for two years," the European Commission said.

The EU added that Penguin is "in constructive discussions" on a possible offer to end the probe, Bloomberg wrote. In a statement, Penguin said its position "has been--and remains--that we have done nothing wrong. As a practical matter, we are settling in the interests of clearing the decks before the new company is established."

Joyce Lorigan, a spokeswoman for Macmillan, said Holtzbrinck Group believes "it is in the best interests of our European business to have agreed on these settlement terms and we are pleased now to be able to move forward with developing our e-book business."

Hachette U.K. said it "is engaged in productive discussions with the e-book agents to ensure that our agreements conform to the terms of the settlement. In France there is a retail price-setting law."
London competition lawyer James Marshall told the Wall Street Journal that the time limitations on the commitments indicate "regulators don't want to take any steps that might prejudice how the e-book market will develop, while at the same time trying to facilitate effective pricing competition in the future."

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