The European Union accepted a settlement offer from Apple (AAPL) and four other book publishers on Thursday that will end an antitrust investigation over eBook price gouging. European regulators had alleged that Apple, along with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette Livre and Macmillan, were conspiring to fix eBook prices to prevent Amazon (AMZN) and other online bookstores from undercutting books in the iTunes library. Per the terms of the settlement, publishers have agreed that they will avoid limiting retailers’ pricing of eBooks for five years and will continue to allow retailers to discount eBook prices for two years. The publishers and Apple have also agreed to terminate all existing pricing agreement.
“While each separate publisher and each retailer of e-books are free to choose the type of business relationship they prefer, any form of collusion to restrict or eliminate competition is simply unacceptable,” said Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy. “The commitments proposed by Apple and the four publishers will restore normal competitive conditions in this new and fast-moving market, to the benefit of the buyers and readers of e-books”.
The United States Department of Justice is currently involved in a similar lawsuit with Apple and book publishers that is ongoing.