The European Commission (EC) said yesterday that major ebook publishers and Apple Inc had provided sufficient commitments to end its probe into price fixing in the booming electronic publishing business.
The EC said commitments by Apple, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins of the US, plus Hachette of France and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck from Germany, had been made legally binding.
That would “restore normal competitive conditions” in the market, it added.
It said it had been concerned that the companies “may have contrived to limit retail price competition for ebooks,” but they had now agreed to terminate or amend agreements over the next five years to remedy the issue.
The firms would also offer retailers freedom to discount ebooks during a two-year period.
“While each separate publisher and each retailer of ebooks are free to choose the type of business relationship they prefer, any form of collusion to restrict or eliminate competition is simply unacceptable,” EC Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
“The commitments proposed ... will restore normal competitive conditions in this new and fast-moving market, to the benefit of the buyers and readers of ebooks,” Almunia said.
The EC said that when it launched the probe last year, Penguin, owned by Britain’s Pearson group, had been included.
While yesterday’s decision did not cover Penguin, it said it was in talks with the publisher on the possible commitments it could make which “would allow an early closure of proceedings.”