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EU antitrust bigwig offers Apple, publishers ebook truce

But only if sacrifices are made

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The EU is willing to consider settling its differences with ebook publishers and Apple if they're willing to make some sacrifices, the European Commission's antitrust chief said.

The commission is in the midst of an investigation into whether Apple colluded with five major publishing houses to fix prices for digital books in an attempt to rescue the book sector and sock it to Amazon - at the expense of customers.

European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia told Reuters and others that the "possibility of a settlement is only open" if publishers are ready to address "all our objections".

The investigation is important to regulators “because the ebooks market is growing very fast and we have an interest to avoid collusive practices”, Almunia added, according to Bloomberg.

The heat is on Apple and the publishers as they face the EU investigation, a class-action lawsuit in the US and threats of further court action by the US Justice Department.

Almunia said that EU regulators were coordinating with US counterparts on probing the pricing deals between Apple and publishers, which shifted the book market from a wholesale to an agency pricing model. If the companies can't settle with the commission and avoid admitting any wrongdoing, they face a fine of up to ten per cent of their global sales.

The publishers in the soup with Apple are Harper Collins, Hachette Livre, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Macmillan. ®

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