Penguin offers to scrap Apple e-book deals to end EU antitrust case

BRUSSELS, April 19 Fri Apr 19, 2013 4:48am EDT

BRUSSELS, April 19 (Reuters) - British media group Pearson's Penguin unit has offered to scrap e-book deals with Apple that imposed price restrictions on Amazon and other retailers, EU antitrust regulators said on Friday.

The concessions, if accepted by the European Commission, would make Penguin the fifth book publisher to settle with regulators, ending a 16-month long investigation without any finding of wrongdoing or fine.

Regulators were concerned such pricing deals could hold back development of the e-book market, with higher prices for consumers. Amazon has the biggest share of that market.

Apple and publishers Simon & Schuster, News Corp unit HarperCollins, Lagardere SCA's Hachette Livre and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, the owner of Germany's Macmillan, reached a settlement with the Commission in December.

Penguin's concessions include ending "most-favoured nation" contracts for five years. Such clauses bar rival retailers from selling e-books more cheaply than Apple.

Retailers will also be allowed to set prices or discounts for a period of two years. The concessions are similar to those offered by the other publishers last year.

Interested parties have a month to comment on Penguin's proposals before the Commission makes a final decision.

The Pearson unit is merging with German media group Bertelsmann's publishing unit Random House.

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