|Regulators with the European Union are prepared to accept a proposal by Apple and four publishers to end an antitrust investigation into ebook pricing, Reuters sources say. Under the terms of the arrangement, Apple and the publishers would let retailers set their own prices and discounts for at least two years. The deal would also suspend "most-favored nation" contracts for at least five years; in this case, for instance, it would block contracts stopping retailers from selling books more cheaply than Apple.
Apple, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, and Macmillan are said to have made the proposal in September; Penguin, one of the parties under investigation, reportedly wasn't involved in the offer to the EU. One the sources adds that the European Commission hasn't asked for any more concessions, and suggests that the Commission will likely accept the proposal and make an announcement next month.
Publishers have been accused of conspiring with Apple to favor the iBookstore and undercut Amazon, the leading ebook vendor. Before the iBookstore was launched publishers are thought to have been upset at how low the prices for Amazon's Kindle titles were, and switched to an agency model which gave Apple an artificial edge.