Apple Guilty of E-Book Price-Fixing: Judge

Court rules company conspired with publishers to jack up prices

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted Jul 10, 2013 10:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – The verdict in the Apple e-book price-fixing trial is in: the company did conspire with publishing companies to push up prices, says a federal judge. "The plaintiffs have shown that the publisher defendants conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy," Judge Denise Cote wrote in her ruling, per the Wall Street Journal. State attorneys general will now seek damages on behalf of consumers in a subsequent trial.

When Apple entered the e-book market in 2010, Amazon had a flat e-book rate of $9.99. Apple allowed publishers to set higher prices for best sellers and new releases, capping them at $12.99 and $14.99 respectively. But those prices became the new industry standard, and the judge said this left Amazon with little choice but to raise prices, too, lest the publishers withhold their titles, reports the New York Times. One damning piece of evidence was an email from Steve Jobs during contract negotiations, saying, "I can live with this, as long as they move Amazon to the agent model too for new releases for the first year. If they don’t, I’m not sure we can be competitive." Apple's lawyers argued the message was a draft, but the judge said it showed Jobs knew publishers were unhappy with Amazon's pricing, and that its own pricing would push Amazon's up. Apple says it will appeal, adds Mashable, with a rep saying, "We've done nothing wrong."

An Apple logo at Apple headquarters.   (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma, File)
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