E-book price probe 'approaching resolution'

E-book price probe 'approaching resolution'

The European and US investigation into e-book pricing may be approaching resolution, say US press reports. However according to the Wall Street Journal and CNET News, Apple, Penguin and Macmillan still have unresolved concerns.

The Wall Street Journal states that three international publishers, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins and Hachette Book Group, are now "inclined to settle the matter" with the Department of Justice in the US as "talks . . . are heating up", though "Apple, another target of the investigation, and two publishers appear reluctant to settle on the terms sought by antitrust authorities in both the US and Europe". It added: "The situation remains fluid and those positions could change as the Justice Department edges closer to filing an antitrust suit." 

Reports on CNET News and on Mac Observer point to Penguin and Macmillan as the publishers who are reluctant to agree on the current terms. The Wall Street Journal indicates that the settlement terms include eradicating the so-called "most-favoured nation" clause, which saw publishers agree not to sell their e-books cheaper than through Apple's iBookstore, and a "cooling off" period before the publishers could continue existing deals with retailers. 

The US Department of Justice has been investigating the agency pricing model since late 2011. 

The European Commission opened an investigation into Apple's deals with European publishers in March last year, and formally took over the UK investigation into fixed digital pricing after the Office of Fair Trading decided to drop its own probe in December. 

In March this year, EU regulators hinted they are open to a deal with European publishers over the agency model, which allows them to set e-book prices, though it is understood certain clauses must be removed from the agreements in order for the EU's antitrust chief to be satisfied. It is not know which clauses these would be.