On 13 December 2012, the European Commission accepted legally binding commitments offered by Apple and four e-book publishers involved in a case of restriction of competition on the e-book market. The publishers, all affiliated to big publishing and/or communication groups - Hachette Livre (Lagardere Publishing, France), Harper Collins (News Corp, US), Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp, US) and Macmillan (Bertelsmann, Germany) - had concluded bilateral agreements with Apple under which distribution of e-books for which these publishers held the rights were banned below a certain price.

These contracts are referred to as agency model contracts and also contained an unusual retail price most favoured nation' (MFN) clause, maximum retail price grids, and a 30% commission payable to Apple. These contracts are on the other end of the spectrum compared with classic wholesale distribution contracts - namely Amazon's contract - by which distributors pay for a product and then sell it at the price of their choosing.

The EU executive was concerned that the switch to these agency model contracts may have been coordinated between the publishers and Apple as part of a common strategy aimed at raising retail prices for e-books or preventing the introduction of lower retail prices for e-books on a global scale - as Amazon has done, in particular. The Commission carried out unannounced inspections, in March 2011, then opened, in December 2011, an in-depth investgiation (into Apple, the four e-book publishers and British publisher Penguin, which chose not to offer commitments to the Commission and with which the Commission is...

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