EU regulators willing to settle in Apple e-book 'cartel' case

European regulators are looking to settle what could be a lengthy antitrust case between Apple and e-book publishers, as U.S. authorities continue to move towards formal legal action.
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

European competition regulators are looking for 'the easy option', after its chief said today that it will be open to settle with Apple and other e-book publishers over its "cartel" pricing behaviour.

The five publishers include News Corp.-owned HarperCollins, Lagardere's Hachette Livre, CBS-owned Simon & Schuster (ZDNet and Simon & Schuster are both owned by CBS), Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck-owned Macmillan, and UK-based Penguin Books.

The U.S. Department of Justice last week put its foot down and told the parties involved to prepare their cases, after it said it plans to sue over the allegations of "collusion".

"This possibility of a settlement is only open in the case the publishers will be ready to remove all our objections," European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told reporters in Brussels, reports Reuters.

It was also said that European and U.S. authorities are working together across the pond to seek answers and justice for consumers.

This comes only four months since the European Commission said it will open an antitrust case to investigate whether the publishers were "helped" by Apple to fix e-book pricing. It is also alleged that the actions could have blocked rivals like Amazon, which has a different 'wholesale' pricing model, and ultimately hurt consumers.

Amazon's 'wholesale' pricing model gives much greater flexibility to e-book makers and sellers, allowing them to price what they like for their work, and even at a loss.

Apple and its e-book counterparts could avoid a 10 percent global annual turnover fine --- Europe's default antitrust penalty --- but restrictions would be imposed on the companies to prevent such abuses from happening in the future.


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