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Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) may be continuing its e-book fight in court in the U.S., but the iPhone maker has sought settlement in a similar case filed against it by the European antitrust regulator. Apple and four book publishers have offered to change pricing models in the European Union and let rival retailers such as Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) sell e-books at a discount.
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The four publishers agreeing to the settlement are Simon & Schuster (NYSE:CBS), HarperCollins (NASDAQ:NWSA), Hachette Livre, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, which owns Macmillan in Germany. Pearson’s (NYSE:PSO) Penguin did not settle.
Under the settlement, retailers will have the freedom to set their own prices in the EU. In addition, the publishers will suspend for five years the most-favored nation contract that Apple used to previously demand.
“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 European Commission said on Wednesday. The Commission said third parties, including rivals and customers, will have until October 19 to comment on the proposal, after which it will end its investigation without imposing fines or determining that the companies violated rules.
Apple said in its settlement proposal that its entry into the e- book market “brought needed competition to a market occupied by a single reseller” and it “strongly contests” that it violated competition rules. However, it said it was modifying agency agreements “to resolve the uncertainty caused by the commission’s investigation.”
The U.S. Department of Justice also sued Apple and the five publishers earlier this year after alleging they colluded to fix e-book prices. Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and HarperCollins have reached a similar settlement with the DOJ, though Apple and the other two publishers are still in court.
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