updated 12:35 pm EDT, Mon March 12, 2012
EU deal may avoid penalty over Apple book pricing
European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia in comments Monday said his agency was willing to settle with publishers over an e-book price fixing investigation. He was willing to put an end to possible penalties for Hachette Livre, HarperCollins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan if they addressed "all our objections [at the EC]" over the group allegedly raising prices unfairly, Reuters heard. The European regulator was working in tandem with matching US investigators, although he didn't directly confirm leaks of a possible Department of Justice lawsuit.
Settling would let the companies avoid admitting any wrongdoing as well as avoid a steep fine of 10 percent of yearly global sales revenue.
Both the American and European investigations are known to have been started based on Apple's pricing demands, set before the iPad became public at the end of January 2010. The company let publishers adopt a heavily requested agency model, where they set the price and give Apple a fixed royalty rate, in this case its familiar 30 percent. Apple's insistence on a "most favored nation" rule, where no bookseller could have a lower price, is likely the main roadblock as it has prevented Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and others from competing based on price.
At least some of the companies are believed to be open to settlements and negotiating, although whether or not that includes Apple isn't apparent.