Media: Apple and four publishing groups may have reached an anti-trust settlement with the EU’s competition authority over alleged e-book price-fixing.
The European Commission said on Wednesday that it was “inviting comments from interested parties” on a draft deal with the publishers.
The four publishers are Hachette Livre, part of France’s Lagardere Publishing; Harper Collins, owned by US-based News Corp.; Macmillan, part of Germany’s Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck; and New York-based CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster.
Last December the commission, along with US competition authorities, opened an investigation to see if the firms had illegally conspired to raise the retail price of e-books and prevent competitors from offering lower prices.
Apple’s contracts with the publishers had changed from the “wholesale model”--in which books were sold to retailers who then determined their own price--to the “agency model” with so-called “most favoured nation” clauses--in which prices are set across the board for all retail outlets, with no seller allowed to deviate from the arranged amount.
The companies started negotiations with the commission this spring. Under the proposed deal, all “agency” contracts would be cancelled and none would be signed for the next five years. Any future agency agreements would allow retailers to offer some discounts.
“Interested parties can submit comments within one month from the date of publication,” the commission said on Wednesday. Any agreement signed between the commission and the companies would be legally binding and mark the end of the anti-trust investigation.
Cross-border e-book sales are an emerging part of Luxembourg’s economy. To promote the sector, last year the Grand Duchy’s government lowered the VAT from 15 to three percent, which is the subject of a separate European Commission inquiry.