Apple and four publishers offer EC e-book price fixing settlement

By Lee Kaelin on September 20, 2012, 11:30 AM

Apple, Hachette, HarperCollins, Holtzbrinck and Simon & Schuster have offered to overhaul their pricing models in order to settle with the European Commission over anti-trust allegations that the firms colluded to fix e-book prices.

All of the accused maintain they are innocent of any wrongdoing, strongly deny the accusations and believe no competition laws were broken. However, they say that settling with the EC will avoid a costly and long-running legal dispute. 

“For a period of two years, the Four Publishers will not restrict, limit or impede e-book retailers’ ability to set, alter or reduce retail prices for e-books and/or to offer discounts or promotions,” the settlement filing (PDF) read. That is, as long as the total value of discount doesn’t exceed the commission they receive from the publisher over a 12 month period, however.

Apple has also promised to terminate its agency agreements with the four firms as well as Pearson. If the settlement proposal is approved by the EC, the move will enable retailers such as Amazon to resume discounting their e-books to European consumers.

The five companies have also stated in their settlement that they will not enter into any agreements or contracts containing MFN clauses relating to the sale of e-books within the EU for the next five years. Apple said it would not enforce a retail price MFN clause in existing agreements during that time.

The EC has until October 19 to decide whether to accept the offer or not and is asking rivals and customers to comment in the meantime. Should the commission accept the offer, it would end the investigation without ruling on whether the five firms violated competition rules, and without imposing fines.

In a separate case last month, the US Department of Justice ruled that Apple was conspiring to manipulate e-book prices. Three of the publishers named in the anti-trust lawsuit filed in April settled, but Apple and two other firms refused. The government proposed a settlement to the DOJ to resolve the price-fixing practices.

In response to the verdict, Apple said it was “fundamentally unfair, unlawful and unprecedented,” and accused the DOJ of rewriting its contracts without any due process.

User Comments: 5

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Tygerstrike said:

Oh dear I wish I could figure out how to quote!! That last line of Apples is pricless! Fundamentally unfair......thats Apple pardon the pun, all the way to the core!! They have used "unfair" business practices that though may not be illegal, is certainly unfair. Samsung can attest to that. I wish the legal deptarment of Apple could for one min take their head out of the case, and look at the situation like the public does. Or maybe this is just Karma!! Either way, its nice to see Apple getting a taste of its own "sour" fruit!

Neojt said:

Ah ebooks .. the biggest monney pile publisher have ever found

Why is an ebook the same price (or almost) has a hard copy!! you dont have to Print,ship,distribute,pay floor employees to sell them .....

This is price fixing ppl want to go green well put a REAL price on ebooks and youll see the amout of paper a year we save!

Leeky Leeky said:

@Tygerstrike To quote text from articles, or anywhere else online for that matter, just copy the text you want to copy and then insert them like below:

[*quote]text goes in here, between the brackets, and without the *

What you get then, is this:

text goes in here, between the brackets, and without the *

Hope that helps.

avioza said:


On my screen the quote box dissapeared... no text size, quotes, colorchanges or anything happened to differentiate your quote from normal.

I have had issues with this in the past.

Leeky Leeky said:

@avioza Sorry, but I'm not sure what you mean.

Are you saying you can't see a quote box in my last reply above?

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