Report: EU authorities ready to accept Apple, publishers settlement in ebook price fixing investigation

According to a new report from Reuters, EU authorities are about to accept a deal with Apple and four book publishers in order to end an antitrust investigation into whether Apple conspired with publishers to prevent Amazon from undercutting Apple’s ebook pricing. The companies originally proposed the settlement in late August, and it would see Amazon go back to its original ebook pricing for two years. By making the deal, Apple and the publishers will be able to put an end to the antirust investigation and avoid related fines:

Apple, Simon & Schuster, News Corp unit HarperCollins, Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Livre, and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, the owner of German company Macmillan, made the proposal to the European Commission in September…Pearson Plc’s Penguin group, which is also under investigation, did not take part in the offer.

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Apple and Amazon notify customers of $69M State settlement with publishers, how to get credit

Earlier this week, Amazon began letting customers know if they were eligible for a share of the $69 million state attorney settlements with Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon and Schuster. Today, Apple started notifying iBooks customers, who bought an iBook from April 1, 2010 to May 21, 2012, of the same payout.

The payout will be dispersed as Kindle/iBooks credit or customers can call a number to request a check for delivery in February.

Notably, if you purchased the Steve Jobs eBook bio from Simon and Schuster on iBooks or Amazon, you should receive this notice.

To be clear, this is separate from the Federal price-fixing case surrounding Apple and some publishers. Barnes and Noble and other eBook distributors are likely doing the same thing. The Amazon version is below:

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Apple calls DOJ settlement with publishers unlawful, says trial is necessary

The U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement in April with three of the publishers involved in the eBook price-fixing antitrust suit against Apple. Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster were part of the settlement, which would allow Amazon to return to its previous wholesale model and the publishers to set and reduce prices for eBook titles freely. PaidContent provided an update today on the case by reporting Apple has filed a document with the Southern District of New York. It called the proposed settlements with the three publishers “fundamentally unfair, unlawful, and unprecedented.” Apple argued that since it is not settling, the settlement would unlawfully end contracts those publishers have with Apple.

The proposed settlement would require the three settling publishers — HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster — to terminate their existing agency pricing contracts with Apple. Apple says that isn’t fair: “The Government is seeking to impose a remedy on Apple before there has been any finding of an antitrust violation.” This case, the company states, revolves around “an alleged conspiracy to force Amazon to adopt agency.” So a settlement “enjoining collusion or precluding publishers from forcing agency on Amazon would be appropriate,” but Apple is entitled to defend its contracts in court.

Apple is hoping the courts decide to reject the settlements or delay a ruling until after the June 2013 trial. Apple also discussed Amazon’ role in the case. It claimed the government has “unwittingly placed a thumb on the scales in favor of Amazon”:
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Cue on agency model: ‘I don’t think you understand. We can’t treat newspapers or magazines any differently than we treat FarmVille.”

By now you probably know that the U.S. Department of Justice launched an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and two publishers this month following an investigation into Apple’s eBook pricing agency model. Three publishers, including Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, decided to reach a settlement with the Department of Justice to return to Amazon’s set-your-own price wholesale model. Meanwhile, Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin will take the fight to court.

Interestingly, a report from The Wall Street Journal, which is owned by the HarperCollins’ parent company News Corp, suggested Apple was only ever trying to continue its App Store business model. The Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz described visiting Senior Apple Executive Eddy Cue to discuss changing Apple’s policies for publications. He quoted Cue as comparing book pricing to apps and not wanting to treat publications differently than app developers:
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Apple eBook price-fixing lawsuits hit Canada following DOJ suit

Following an investigation into alleged eBook price-fixing, the U.S. Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and publishers Macmillan and Penguin earlier this month, who refused to settle. Other publishers, including Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, settled and reached an agreement to return Amazon to its previous wholesale model and dismantle Apple’s agency model. The settlement also included agreements with select states that would see $51 million in restitution paid to those who purchased eBooks through Apple’s platform. Now, several Canadian publications are reporting class-action lawsuits were filed against Apple and the five publishers throughout Canada.

Lawyer Normand Painchaud spoke with The Montreal Gazette about his class-action suit filed in Quebec Superior Court and talked about two others filed in Ontario and British Columbia:

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Apple finally comments on DOJ antitrust charges: ‘We’re breaking monopolies not starting them’

Apple finally commented late this evening on the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust suit against the company. What did Apple think up with those extra 48 hours? Peter Kafka got the scoop from Apple’s Tom Neumayr:

The DOJ’s accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true. The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. Since then customers have benefited from eBooks that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we’ve allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.

The civil antitrust suit alleged that Apple’s move to let publishers set their own prices—and it is a requirement that publishers do not sell their digital books for cheaper elsewhere—forced consumers to pay millions more for books than they should have.

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