Apple and several publishers offer concessions to avoid e-book suit

A new report is out this morning claiming that Apple and several major publishers have agreed to offer pricing concessions in an effort to end an antitrust investigation by the European Union (EU).

Last December, the EU started looking into claims that Apple was conspiring with publishers to raise e-book prices, saying its “agency model” was hampering digital publishing competition in Europe…

Reuters reports:

“Apple and four major publishers have offered to allow retailers such as Amazon to sell e-books at a discount for two years in a bid to end an EU antitrust investigation and stave off possible fines, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday.”

The four publishers involved in the investigation are Simon  & Schuster, News Corp’s HarperCollins, French group Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Livre and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck. If this all sounds familiar, that’s because it is — Apple is involved in a similar investigation here in the US led by the DoJ.

The news of Apple’s concession offering comes just a few days after word got out that publishers here in the US had settled with the DoJ for $69 million. Three of the five publishers named in the government’s lawsuit have elected to settle, while the other two have decided to fight the charges alongside Apple.

Back in April, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit against the iPad-maker and five major publishers over alleged price-fixing charges. The DoJ didn’t like Apple’s “agency” pricing model, which allowed publishers to sell their e-books in iBooks for as much as $14.99, as long as they didn’t offer the books cheaper anywhere else online. This caused a jump in e-book prices for Amazon and other retailers.

Apple has vowed to fight the lawsuit, but its recent actions in Europe show that it might be having a change of heart.