Penguin is several steps closer to resolving e-book price fixing charges in the U.S. and in the European Union. Thursday, the Department of Justice filed a motion with Judge Denise Cote asking her to approve the final judgment against Penguin, which has until May 3 to file any counter papers. In the EU, the European Commission said Penguin had agreed to changes in e-book pricing that pave the way for a settlement with the company.
The motion made by the DoJ was no surprise since the government and Penguin had reached an agreement in the case that largely followed settlements reached with Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins. The government has since complied with the procedures to get a final judgment, including a public comment period that yielded three responses. Once Judge Cote approves the agreement, the terms will apply to the merged Penguin Random House company once that deal is finalized.
In the EU, Penguin has been the lone holdout in settling with the commission. While Hachette, S&S, Macmillan, HC and Apple agreed to settle, Penguin had held out, but, the commission said in a statement released Friday, “following constructive discussions with the Commission, Penguin recently offered commitments with a view to seeking an early closure of the proceedings.” In a statement, Penguin reiterated it had done nothing wrong, but said to clear the way for the Random House merger it had agreed to settle. "Penguin confirms that, subject to the market test currently underway, it has reached an agreement with the European Commission to settle its investigation into the establishment of agency pricing agreements for eBooks. Penguin’s position that it has done nothing wrong remains unchanged and the company continues to believe that the agency pricing model operates in the best interests of consumers and authors. While we disagree with some elements of the Commission’s analysis, we are settling as a procedural matter to clear the decks in anticipation of our proposed merger with Random House."
As part of the agreement, the commission is conducting a market test of the proposed changes to Penguin’s e-book pricing policy, changes that won’t “restrict, limit or impede” e-book retailers from discounting e-books for two years. “If the market test confirms that Penguin's commitments are suitable to address the Commission's competition concerns, the Commission may make them legally binding on Penguin,” the statement said.