Apple and four publishers have offered an EU e-book antitrust settlement.

Apple and publishers offer EU antitrust settlement

The European Commission has said that Apple and four major publishers have offered to let retailers sell e-books at a discount, in a bid to end an EU antitrust investigation.

EU regulators have been investigating Apple's ebook pricing deals with Simon & Schuster, News Corp unit HarperCollins, French group Lagardere SCA's Hachette Livre, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, which owns Macmillan in Germany, and Pearson Plc's Penguin group.

Apple and the publishers, with the exception of Penguin, have offered to settle with the commission, which began its inquiry last December.

"For a period of two years, the four publishers will not restrict, limit or impede ebook retailers' ability to set, alter or reduce retail prices for ebooks and/or to offer discounts or promotions," the European Commission said in its official journal, detailing the offer under consideration.

The commission said the publishers and Apple also offered to suspend "most-favoured nation" contracts for five years. Such clauses barred publishers from deals with rival retailers to sell ebooks at prices lower than those set by Apple.

The EU watchdog said third-parties have a month to provide feedback on the proposals. If the response is positive, the commission will end its investigation.

HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette reached a settlement with the US government in April with similar proposals.

According to analysts at UBS, ebooks account for about 30 per cent of the US book market and 20 per cent of sales in Britain, but are still negligible elsewhere.

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