Apple Could Pay $400 Million in E-Books Price-Fixing Case
The number is in for how much Apple might have to pay to consumers to settle charges of conspiring with publishers to raise e-book prices: $400 million.
Apple last month agreed to settle a class action brought by attorneys general in 33 states. They had sought hundreds of millions of dollars in damages from Apple, claiming it had colluded with book publishers to inflate e-book prices. The class action was certified after Apple lost an earlier antitrust suit brought by the Justice Department in 2012. The government had accused Apple of working with the publishers to raise prices of e-books so that they could break free from the uniform $9.99 pricing that Amazon had set for new e-book releases.
The amount Apple would actually have to pay in the class action depends on the outcome of Apple’s appeal in that antitrust suit. If Apple wins the appeal, it could pay nothing.
Five major publishers, including Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, had also been named in the government’s antitrust suit, but they all settled before the trial. The judge presiding over the case, Denise L. Cote of United States District Court in Manhattan, rendered a guilty verdict last summer.
Eric T. Schneiderman, New York’s attorney general, said the settlement reached with Apple was a victory for consumers.
“This settlement proves that even the biggest, most powerful companies in the world must play by the same rules as everyone else,” he said in a statement. “In a major victory, our settlement has the potential to result in Apple paying hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers to compensate them for paying unlawfully inflated e-book prices. We will continue to work with our colleagues in other states to ensure that all companies compete fairly with the knowledge that no one is above the law.”
Apple, in a statement, maintained its innocence and said it was still fighting the accusations through the appeal.
“We did nothing wrong and we believe a fair assessment of the facts will show it,” said Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman. “The iBooks Store has been good for consumers and the publishing industry as a whole, from well-known authors to first-time novelists. As we wait for the court to hear our appeal, we have agreed to a settlement, which is contingent on the outcome of the appeal. If we are vindicated by the appeals court, no settlement will be paid.”
Meanwhile, the publishing industry continues to feel pressure from Amazon, which is by far the biggest retailer in e-books.
The latest struggle between publishers and Amazon erupted into the public sphere in May. Amazon had sought concessions on book sales from Hachette, the fourth-largest publisher, which the publisher was unwilling to give. So Amazon sought to get its way by delaying delivery of Hachette books.