Business

EU ends e-book price-fixing probe

BERLIN — The European Commission settled its antitrust case against Apple and four book publishing groups over e-book price fixing Thursday, in what was called a victory for the leading online seller, Amazon.com, and a setback for publishers.

The investigation ended after Apple, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Holtzbrinck agreed to end their attempt to set prices for e-books. Under agreements made in 2010, publishers could set prices, with the retailer acting as an agent taking a commission. Apple championed this model.

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For print books, publishers act as wholesalers, charging retailers about half the cover price and allowing retailers to set their own price.

Publishers fear Amazon can sell e-books for less than it pays, taking a loss in the short term to drive smaller competitors out of business.

EU officials said collusion by publishers would lead to higher prices for consumers.

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