Brussels - European Union regulators are open to a settlement with
e-book publishers owned by Lagardere, News Corp and three other firms if they
offer concessions to resolve competition concerns, the EU’s antitrust chief
said on Monday.
Since last December, the European Commission has been
investigating whether the publishers fixed prices with Apple for electronic
books, an action that might have blocked rivals such as Amazon and hurt
Lagardere’s Hachette Livre unit and News Corp’s Harper
Collins are being investigated. The other three publishers are CBS Corp’s Simon
& Schuster, Pearson’s Penguin and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck, which
owns Macmillan in Germany.
“This possibility of a settlement is only open in the case
the publishers will be ready to remove all our objections,” European
Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia told reporters.
He said EU regulators were coordinating with US
counterparts, which are also looking into such pricing deals under an agency
model adopted in 2010 in which publishers set the retail price.
Under the commission’s settlement procedures, companies
could offer concessions to avert a fine of up to 10% of their global
sales. Regulators would then drop their investigation without the companies
admitting to any wrongdoing.
US regulators have warned Apple and the five publishers that
it plans to sue them, a person familiar with the matter told Reuters last week.
The person also said several of the companies were holding talks to settle the
The wholesale model used by Amazon allows retailers to pay
for the product and charge what they like.