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BRUSSELS European Union regulators ended an antitrust probe into e-book prices on Thursday, accepting an offer by Apple and four publishers to ease pricing restrictions on Amazon and other retailers.

The decision hands online retailer Amazon a victory in its attempt to sell e-books cheaper than rivals in the fast-growing market publishers hope will boost revenue and customer numbers. Reuters first reported in November that the Commission was accepting the settlement offer.

The European Commission said in a statement on Thursday that the concessions from Apple and the publishers soothe concerns that their pricing deals curb competition.

"The commitments proposed by Apple and the four publishers will restore normal competitive conditions in this new and fast-moving market, to the benefit of the buyers and readers of e-books," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.

Apple and the publishers offered to let retailers set prices or discounts for a period of two years, and also to suspend "most-favored nation" contracts for five years.

Such clauses bar Simon & Schuster, News Corp. unit HarperCollins, Lagardere SCA's Hachette Livre and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck, the owner of German company Macmillan, from making deals with rival retailers to sell e-books more cheaply than Apple.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Rex Merrifield)

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