E-Book Publishers Need to Make Changes to Settle Probe, EU Says

News Corp.’s Harper Collins and four other publishers probed by European Union need to address regulatory concerns before they can settle the antitrust case, the EU’s competition commissioner said.

Joaquin Almunia, the antitrust chief, told reporters today that a settlement was only possible if the publishers were “ready to remove” the cause of EU objections regarding sales restrictions. No talks on a settlement are currently taking place, he said.

The European Commission last year opened an investigation into Apple Inc.’s deals with e-book publishers Harper Collins, Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Livre, CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster, Pearson Plc’s Penguin and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan division that may restrict sales.

The U.S. Justice Department is discussing a possible settlement with some companies involved in its probe of Apple and publishers over e-books prices, according to a person familiar with the matter last week.

The investigation is important to regulators “because the e-books market is growing very fast and we have an interest to avoid collusive practices,” Almunia said.

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