European Regulators Reportedly Set to Approve Apple E-Book Settlement Proposal
Reuters reports that regulators with the European Union are preparing to approve an offer from Apple and four book publishers to settle an antitrust action related to e-book pricing.
Apple, Simon & Schuster, News Corp unit HarperCollins, Lagardere SCA's Hachette Livre, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, the owner of German company Macmillan, made the proposal to the European Commission in September.
The move came after the EU antitrust authority opened an investigation into the companies' e-book pricing model, which critics say prevents Amazon and other retailers from undercutting Apple.
Officials in the U.S. and Europe have been taking on Apple and publishers over a shift to an agency model for pricing in which publishers set retail prices for books and distributors such as Apple and Amazon receive a set percentage of the sales price. The model, championed by Apple for the 2010 launch of the iBookstore, was intended to reduce Amazon's dominance in a market where it could purchase books at wholesale prices and sell them at a deep discount to undercut other retailers.
A key part of Apple's agency model was a "most favored nation" clause that prevented publishers from selling books to other retailers at prices lower than those offered to Apple. The clause was intended to prevent Amazon from striking deals to continue undercutting other retailers, but quickly drew criticism and the attention of regulators for potential price collusion effects.
Under concessions offered by Apple and publishers in the European case, Apple's agency model would be significantly unraveled, with Amazon and others being allowed to set their own pricing for books.