Apple, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette and Macmillan have reached a proposed settlement with the European Commission over the isse of ebook pricing.
Last year the EC opened an investigation into whether the firms had broken EU antitrust rules by engaging in “anti-competitive practices affecting the sale of e-books”.
A number of publishers sell ebooks under the agency pricing model, which sees publishers set the final retail price and pay the retailer a commission, in order to sell through Apple’s iBooks app.
They subsequently extended the model to other retailers including Amazon’s Kindle store.
The four companies have now made a series of undertakings which, if accepted, would end the EC investigation and avoid charges being brought against them.
Under the offered commitments, the publishers will give retailers “the opportunity to terminate any agency agreements concluded for the sale of e-books that (i) restrict, limit or impede the retailer’s ability to set, alter or reduce the retail price, or to offer price discounts or promotions, or (ii) contain a price MFN clause as defined in the Four Publishers’ commitments.”
In addition the publishers agree not to impose price controls on ebooks for a period of two years.
Retailers will however be restricted in the level of discounts they can offer, with the agreement requiring that “the aggregate value of the price discounts or promotions offered by any retailer should not exceed the aggregate amount equal to the total commissions the publisher pays to that retailer over a 12-month period in connection with the sale of its e-books to consumers.”
This means retailers cannot lose money across the portfolio of books stocked from any publisher.
The proposed settlement is now open for public comment, details can be found here.