Exclusive - Amazon to win EU e-book pricing tussle with Apple

Tue Nov 6, 2012 8:33pm EST
 

By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union regulators are to end an antitrust probe into e-book prices by accepting an offer by Apple and four publishers to ease price restrictions on Amazon, two sources said on Tuesday.

That decision would hand online retailer Amazon a victory in its attempt to sell e-books cheaper than rivals in the fast-growing market publishers hope will boost revenue and increase customer numbers.

"Faced with years of court battles and uncertainty I can understand why some of these guys decided to fold their cards and take the whipping," said Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, an ebook publisher and distributor that works with Apple.

"It's certainly another win for Amazon," he added. "I have not seen the terms of the final settlement, but my initial reaction is that it places restrictions on what publishers can do, slowing them down just when they need to be more nimble."

A spokesman at the EU Commission said its investigation was not yet finished. Amazon and Apple declined to comment.

In September, Apple and the publishers offered to let retailers set prices or discounts for a period of two years, and also to suspend "most-favored nation" contracts for five years.

Such clauses bar Simon & Schuster, News Corp. unit HarperCollins, Lagardere SCA's Hachette Livre and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, the owner of German company Macmillan, from making deals with rival retailers to sell e-books more cheaply than Apple.

The agreements, which critics say prevent Amazon and other retailers from undercutting Apple's charges, sparked an investigation by the European Commission in December last year.   Continued...

 
A customer looks over the iPad mini after the device went on sale at Apple's retail store in Palo Alto, California November 2, 2012. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith