EU hints at possible deal over agency model

EU hints at possible deal over agency model

EU regulators have hinted that they are open to a deal with European publishers over the agency model that allows them to set e-book prices; however the EU's antitrust chief indicated that they must remove certain clauses the EU objects to, though declined to tell reporters what those clauses were.

According to various reports from the press briefing, Joaquin Almunia, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for competition policy, said that a settlement was only possible if the publishers were “ready to remove” the cause of EU objections regarding sales restrictions. But he also indicated that no talks on a settlement were currently taking place.

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 the US the Justice Department is also discussing a possible settlement with some companies involved in its probe of Apple and publishers over e-books prices, after it indicated to them that it intended to sue them.

According to analyses the offending clauses stem from the provisions Apple insisted on that prevented e-book publishers from entering into wholesale arrangements with Amazon or any other e-bookseller, and the most favoured nation clause that guarantees that no other distributor would be allowed to sell books for less than Apple. It is thought that the big publishers could accept some kind of compromise if it enabled a form of agency to continue.