U.S. takes Apple to trial over e-books price-fixing

Sun Jun 2, 2013 8:07am EDT
 
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By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Apple Inc goes to trial Monday over allegations by federal and state authorities that it conspired with publishers to raise the price of e-books.

The trial pits the maker of the popular iPad and iPhone against the U.S. Justice Department in a case that tests how Internet retailers interact with content providers.

"This case will effectively set the rules for Internet commerce," said David Balto, a former policy director for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

The Justice Department filed its case against Apple and five of the six largest U.S. book publishers in April 2012. The lawsuit accused them of conspiring to increase e-book prices and break Amazon.com Inc's hold on pricing.

Apple is going to trial alone after the five publishers agreed to eliminate prohibitions on wholesale discounts and to pay a collective $164 million to benefit consumers.

The five publishers were Pearson Plc's Penguin Group, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers Inc, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc, Hachette Book Group Inc and MacMillan.

The U.S. government is not seeking damages but instead an order blocking Apple from engaging in similar conduct. However, if Apple is found liable, it could still face damages in a separate trial by the state attorneys general and consumers pursuing class actions.

'DIRECT EVIDENCE'   Continued...

 
An illustration picture shows application icons on an Apple Ipad tablet held by a woman in Bordeaux, Southwestern France, February 4, 2013. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau