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European Union settles ebook pricing row with publishers

Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette, Holtzbrinck and Apple agree
Thu Dec 13 2012, 13:03

THE EUROPEAN UNION (EU) has settled its ebook pricing row with publishers and Apple, and the publishers and Apple said that they will terminate their existing agreements.

Publishers Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette and Holtzbrinck as well as Apple have agreed to the EU's terms and will all walk away from its concerns about a conspiracy to control retail prices and limit competition.

The publishers have agreed not to use agency agreements and to give booksellers the right to charge whatever they want for digital titles for as long as two years.

"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," said Joaquín Almunia, European Commission VP in charge of competition policy

"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".

Apple also agreed to terminate any existing agreements with Penguin that were controversial.

The firms might have chosen to comply as the suggested fines could have been high, as much as 10 percent of their global sales.

Hachette told The INQUIRER that it is already talking with ebook sellers and is working to make sure that any agreements that it holds conform to the settlement.

"Hachette UK is engaged in productive discussions with our ebook agents to ensure that our agreements conform to the terms of the settlement," it said in a statement.

"We do not anticipate any disruption to sales of our ebooks and are expecting record ebook sales over the Christmas period."

The Holtzbrinck group said that it is happy with the settlement and ready to move on. "From the outset, the Holtzbrinck group has strongly denied all charges of collusion in relation to its ebook businesses," it said in a statement.

"That said, we believe it is in the best interests of our European business to have agreed on these settlement terms and we are pleased now to be able to move forward with developing our ebook business." µ


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