Penguin Settlement in E-Books Antitrust Probe Approved by EU

Bertelsmann SE’s Penguin Random House settled a European Union antitrust case into e-books after regulators accepted its offer to overhaul its pricing system.

Apple Inc., the world’s biggest technology company, and four publishers previously offered similar remedies to allay European concerns.

“After our decision of December 2012, the commitments are now legally binding on Apple and all five publishers including Penguin, restoring a competitive environment in the market for e-books,” Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s competition chief, said in an e-mailed statement today.

Facing EU pressure, Apple last year promised to terminate so-called agency agreements with the four companies, CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster, News Corp.’s HarperCollins, Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH’s Macmillan unit and Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Livre, and Pearson Plc.

Penguin offered earlier this year to stop restricting or impeding e-book retailers from offering discounts or to allow them to “set, alter or reduce retail prices for e-books” for two years. The European Commission in Brussels today accepted the settlement offer.

Bertelsmann’s Random House publishing unit agreed in October to merge with Pearson’s Penguin to create by far the largest book publisher in the U.K. and the U.S. The deal received EU backing in April. The joint venture, named Penguin Random House and based in New York, is 53 percent-owned by Bertelsmann, with Pearson holding the remainder, the companies said in October. Bertelsmann and Pearson on July 1 said the deal was completed.

If a company breaks EU settlement commitments, the commission can impose a fine of as much as 10 percent of its annual global sales.

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