Apple and book publishers may see their ebook price fixing drama come to a close in Europe soon: Reuters reports that EU regulators will accept an offer allowing Amazon and others to sell ebooks at lower prices than Apple, which will reportedly end the antitrust investigation and allow Apple and others to avoid fines. The proposal was offered by Apple, HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster in August. The group was accused of colluding to fix ebook pricing instead of competing with retailers like Amazon. Reuters reports that the EU is likely to accept the offer and announce the decision in December, which would come roughly one year after it announced a formal investigation into price fixing.
Apple and publishers are also under fire in the US over alleged price fixing, and federal judge approved a settlement offer from Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, and Hachette back in September. Apple, MacMillan, and Penguin have yet to offer or agree to a settlement — but they may not blink in the US case. All three parties have been defiant so far, claiming that the Department of Justice's accusations about price fixing are false.
Update: The European Commission has accepted the settlement offer, saying that "these commitments are suitable to restore and maintain retail price competition for the sale of e-books." In a statement released to the press, Joaquín Almunia, EC Vice-President in charge of competition policy said:
"While each separate publisher and each retailer of e-books are free to choose the type of business relationship they prefer, any form of collusion to restrict or eliminate competition is simply unacceptable. The commitments proposed by Apple and the four publishers will restore normal competitive conditions in this new and fast-moving market, to the benefit of the buyers and readers of e-books."
The fifth publisher named in the original antitrust case, Penguin, has not agreed to the EC's terms yet, although Apple has canceled its agreement with the publisher. The EC says that "constructive discussions" are ongoing with a view to end proceedings against Penguin as well.
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