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Penguin follows Apple with EU deal after e-book price-fixing scandal

The European Commission has announced a deal with publisher Penguin over e-book price-fixing accusations.

Penguin agreed to roughly the same commitments that four other publishers and Apple made last year. Specifically, Penguin will ditch the agency model for e-books, whereby publishers set the prices and distributors, like Apple and Amazon, take a cut of the sale. That means retailers have the freedom to discount e-books, subject to certain conditions, over the next two years.

Penguin offered this solution in April, and the EU opened that up to public comment. The EU said this week that it "is satisfied that the commitments offered by Penguin remedy the [EU's] competition concerns."

"After our decision of December 2012, the commitments are now legally binding on Apple and all five publishers including Penguin, restoring a competitive environment in the market for e-books," Joaquín Almunia, commission vice president in charge of competition policy, said in a statement.

Penguin did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In December 2011, the EU opened a formal investigation into Apple and five publishers, then including Penguin, exploring whether the companies colluded to restrict e-book competition.

By December 2012, the EU adopted a proposal from Apple and four book publishers — Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette Livre (Lagardère Publishing), and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck (Macmillan) — that offered more pricing freedom to e-book retailers like Amazon. Penguin was excluded from that settlement since it chose not to offer commitments to the EU, the Commission said at the time.

US officials conducted a similar investigation and brought charges in April 2012 over an alleged "illegal conspiracy" involving e-book price-fixing. The publishers settled with the Justice Department, but Apple fought the charges.

Ultimately, however, Cupertino was found guilty of price-fixing earlier this month.