* EU investigating Hachette Livre, Harper Collins
* Simon & Schuster, Penguin and Macmillan also involved
* Focuses on pricing deals between e-book publishers, Apple
* Some publishers in settlement talks with U.S. regulators
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, March 12 EU regulators are open
to a settlement with e-book publishers owned by Lagardere
, News Corp and three other firms if they
offer concessions to resolve competition concerns, the EU's
antitrust chief said on Monday.
Since last December, the European Commission has been
investigating whether the publishers fixed prices with Apple Inc
for electronic books, an action that might have blocked
rivals such as Amazon and hurt consumers.
Lagardere's Hachette Livre unit and News Corp's Harper
Collins are being investigated. The other three publishers are
CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster, Pearson's Penguin
and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck, which owns Macmillan in
"This possibility of a settlement is only open in the case
the publishers will be ready to remove all our objections,"
European Commissioner for Competition Joaquin Almunia told
He said EU regulators were co-ordinating with U.S.
counterparts, which are also looking into such pricing deals
under an agency model adopted in 2010 in which publishers set
the retail price.
Under the Commission's settlement procedures, companies
could offer concessions to avert a fine of up to 10 percent of
their global sales. Regulators would then drop their
investigation without the companies admitting to any wrongdoing.
U.S. regulators have warned Apple and the five publishers
that it plans to sue them, a person familiar with the matter
told Reuters last week. The person also said several of the
companies were holding talks to settle the case.
The wholesale model used by Amazon allows retailers to pay
for the product and charge what they like.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee)