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EU Announces Settlement for eBook Price-Fixing Conspiracy

Here’s some news which will receive a resounding Eh from the many European countries who have fixed price book laws.

The European Commission announced today that they had formally accepted a settlement agreement put forward by Apple and 4 publishers some months ago.

The agreement closely parallels the settlement that 3 US publishers reached with the Justice Dept back in September. The publishers give up the right to set the retail prices of ebooks, and exchange for that they also avoid a messy investigation which would likely result in huge fines. The European Commission would usually fine offending companies 10% of each company’s annual revenue, which for Apple would be in the billion of dollars. Needless to say the EU fines would be a hell of a lot more than the $69 million fine which 3 of the conspirators agreed to in the US.

Apple, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan (von Holtzbrinck), HarperCollins, and Hachette are all getting off rather easy , I would say. Apple gets to go on doing business as usual, while the publishers merely have to renegotiate some contracts. Their pricing policy will not need to change in most European markets.

Other details for the settlement include:

For a period of two years, the publishers cannot, subject to certain conditions, hamper ebook retailers from setting their own prices for ebooks or, from offering discounts and promotions;

For a period of five years neither the four publishers nor Apple can conclude agreements for ebooks with retail-price Most Favored Customer clauses.

The proposed settlement had been posted for public comment when initially proposed, but I can see from the final text that my proposal for bringing back the guillotine was not seriously considered.


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Paul December 14, 2012 um 10:55 am

A reminder that this only impacts the UK market. The other big markets (French and German) have existing laws that set the price of a book whether its in print or online.

Agency Pricing Continues to Hurt eBook Sales in the UK (Just Like in the US) | The Digital Reader November 3, 2016 um 12:26 pm

[…] publishers had given up control of their ebook prices in a 2012 settlement with the European Union. That settlement was a little ridiculous given that price controls are […]

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