Apple Goes to Trial in e-Book Price Fixing Case

Posted by at 11:46 am on June 3, 2013

Apple is today headed to trial to defend itself in the antitrust case brought against it by the US Justice Department over e-book pricing, Bloomberg notes. The company is accused of conspiring with major publishers — Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Pearson, and HarperCollins — to artificially inflate the prices of e-books over the $10 threshold that was once standard at Amazon. The publishers were also involved in the case at one point, but each decided to settle before matters went to trial.

Apple has insisted that there was no conspiracy involved when, in 2010, it negotiated an “agency” model for e-books which gave publishers more control over pricing than retailers. The terms helped ensure that the newly-launched iBookstore would have e-book prices on par with or better than other vendors, but only by forcing prices higher across the industry. Amazon remains the leading e-book seller in the US, but now more regularly prices titles over the $10 mark.

“The e-book case to me is bizarre,” claimed  Appple CEO Tim Cook at last week’s D11 conference. “We’ve done nothing wrong there and so we’re taking a very principled position on this… And so we’re going to fight.”

The trial is being handled by US District Judge Denise Cote, and will come to a ruling without a jury. Cote has previously  stated that the Justice Department likely has enough evidence to prove a conspiracy. Should a verdict indeed go against Apple it could force the company to change the way it negotiates book prices, though whether or not they would fall is uncertain.

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