Judge Rules That Apple Led ‘Conspiracy’ To Fix eBook Prices

By Jason Boog Comment

U.S. district judge Denise Cote ruled today that Apple colluded with publishers to fix eBook prices. You can read her 160-page ruling at this PDF link. The DOJ offered this statement:

After carefully weighing the evidence, the court agreed with the Justice Department and 33 state attorneys general that executives at the highest levels of Apple orchestrated a conspiracy with five major publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster – to raise e-book prices.  Through today’s court decision and previous settlements with five major publishers, consumers are again benefitting from retail price competition and paying less for their e-books.

Above, you can see a DOJ chart about how eBook prices changed when the agency model took effect in 2010 (click to enlarge). You can read more about the chart, created by Berkeley Competition Policy Center chair and emeritus Berkeley economics professor Richard J. Gilbert for the DOJ.

Hagens Berman managing partner Steve Berman said in the statement that the ruling should speed up the lawsuit his firm filed on behalf of eBook buyers against Apple and publishers.  The publishers have already settled price-fixing suits with the DOJ, state AGs and consumer class cases, leaving only Apple to face these suits. He explained:

Judge Cote ruled definitively that Apple was guilty of conspiring to fix prices for e-books, and we believe this ruling is binding on the consumer case, meaning we do not need to again prove Apple’s culpability in the price-fixing scheme … Once we receive class certification, the only issue that will remain is for a jury to assess damages, which under federal law are trebled, or tripled.

The judge will hold “a further hearing to define injunctive relief and damages” at another date, but you can look at our post, What Happens If Apple Loses the eBook Case?