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Penguin and European Commission settle e-book pricing flap

Penguin to follow examples of other publishers
Thu Jul 25 2013, 14:52
Penguin books logo

BOOK PUBLISHER Penguin has won approval from the European Commission (EC) to bring an end to its investigation of e-book sales practices.

The EC investigation looked into the flightless bird's business, as well as those of four other publishers.

Those publishers, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette Livre, and Macmillan were accused of colluding with Apple to set low prices on ebooks. This, said the EC, would be "in breach of EU antitrust rules".

Penguin has now joined the other parties in committing to end what are sometimes called agency agreements. That will give retailers the right to discount ebooks, and remove certain most favoured business partner clauses from agreements.

Penguin must end all existing agency agreements now and let retailers enjoy a "cooling off" period in which they can cut the prices of its books.

Penguin has not yet responded to our request for comment, but when its peers capitulated last year, they said that they were settling the matter so they could carry on with business.

"After our decision of December 2012, the commitments are now legally binding on Apple and all five publishers including Penguin, restoring a competitive environment in the market for e-books," said Joaquín Almunia, commission VP in charge of competition policy.

In the US Apple has described similar moves from the Department of Justice as striking at the heart of modern business.

Apple lawyer said that a decision against it would "send shudders through the business community", adding, "We submit a ruling against Apple on this record sets a dangerous precedent." µ


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