Apple, Publishers Agree to Settle E-Book Price-Fixing Inquiry in Europe
The European commission recently had a change of heart and is willing to drop its probe into an alleged price-fixing scheme by Apple, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette Livre and Verlagsgruppe Georg Von Holtzbrinck, after all of the companies agreed to let online retailer Amazon sell the same e-books at discounted prices for a period of two years. According to The New York Times
, the agreement is currently undergoing a peer review.
The Commission’s inquiry, which was first launched in December 2011, is related to Apple’s so-called “agency model,” which allows book publishers to set prices for e-books sold in the iBookstore under a most favored nations clause. This means that houses couldn’t sell their product elsewhere for a lower price. Had the investigation succeeded in finding the companies in violation of antitrust laws, each company faced penalties equaling up to 10% of revenue from global sales.
The companies agree to dismantle the most favored nations clause with the settlement. If the peer review is in favor of the agreement, the Commission said it might work to make the plan legally binding, which would end the antitrust case without an admission of guilt from the parties. While Apple and the four publishing houses agreed to the settlement terms, Penguin Group is holding out and remains under investigation.
The announcement as a whole is similar to the counterpart price-fixing case in the U.S. leveled by the Department of Justice in which HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster and Hachette recently settled for $69 million. Apple, Penguin Group and Macmillan continue to fight these allegations with the companies asking for a court trial to decide the matter.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens next by being patient.
Source: The New York Times