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EC is close to settling book price fixing case

Publishers offer to let books be sold at a discount
Wed Sep 19 2012, 15:28

THE EUROPEAN COMMISSION (EC) seems to be close to coming to an accord with the book publishers that it suspects of behaving in an anticompetitive manner in pricing their wares.

In a statement the EC said that it is looking for comment from parties in relation to the commitments that it has received from the publishers, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette Livre and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, which owns Macmillan, and Apple.

According to the EC these firms have offered to terminate their existing agreements, which might have been anticompetitive, and let booksellers sell books for the prices that they want.

"The Commission considers at this stage that these companies may have breached EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive practices by jointly switching the sale of e-books from a wholesale model to agency contracts," said the EC.

"The agency model allows more control by publishers over retail prices. The Commission has concerns that this switch may have been the result of collusion between competing publishers, with the help of Apple, and may have aimed at raising retail prices of e-books in the European Economic Area or preventing the emergence of lower prices."

In order to counter this the firms have offered to create new agency agreements that will let retailers set the prices of books as they want. These agreements, and prices, will last for two years, the EC explained.

The EC is asking that any interested parties, and by that we take it to mean booksellers, respond with their comments. If the proposals are accepted it will bind the publishers to them. µ


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