Apple Guilty, May Pay Hundreds of Millions in eBook Price Fixing Conspiracy Damages

A federal judge has ruled that Apple is guilty of conspiring with publishers to raise the prices of ebooks from late 2009 to early 2010, which is a violation of antitrust laws and lands Apple in hot water. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote wrote in her decision, "Apple chose to join forces with the publisher defendants to raise ebook prices and equipped them with the means to do so. Without Apple's orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did."

According to Reuters, Apple’s price-fixing conspiracy was pushing Amazon’s ebook prices from about $9.99 to between $12.99 and $14.99 due to Apple’s “agency agreements” with publishers that allowed the company to set higher prices and collect commissions. This setup is in contrast to Amazon’s initial ebook strategy, which was reportedly to buy ebooks wholesale and then reselling them below cost.

Apple iBooks, part of Apple's ebook price fixing conspiracy

A partner in the firm pursuing the case against Apple, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, said that the firm would be asking for damages against Apple in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Apple, perhaps predictably, denies any wrongdoing, stating that it was not aware that publishers were conspiring amongst themselves regarding ebook pricing. The company settled a similar case with the European Commission, and in that case Apple also maintained that it did nothing wrong.