Joins publishers Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette Livre and Macmillan in setting aside price agreements before the launch of Apple's iPad in 2010.

British publisher Penguin has struck a deal with the European Union to end a probe into its eBook business, the EU’s executive said on Thursday.

It means Penguin has now joined four other publishers and internet giant Apple in setting aside agreements that the EU suspected could be aimed at driving up prices.

“The commitments are now legally binding on Apple and all five publishers including Penguin, restoring a competitive environment in the market for e-books,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

The other publishers — US firms Harper Collins and Simon & Schuster, France’s Hachette Livre, and Germany’s Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck, the owner of Macmillan — had agreed to the conditions in December.

All of the companies had been accused of colluding to fix prices, in breach of EU antitrust rules, instead of competing with online retailers such as Amazon.

The publishers have agreed to terminate agency agreements with price restrictions and “give retailers freedom to discount eBooks, subject to certain conditions, during two years,” the EU said.

They have also reached a separate settlement with the US government over the alleged collusion, but Apple has landed in court over the matter.

It has denied wrongdoing in the case, which centres on agreements reached by the company’s late chief executive officer, Steve Jobs, and the five publishers, before Apple introduced the iPad in 2010.

The US government claims they colluded to try to sabotage Amazon, which at the time dominated the eBook market.


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