Judge finds Apple went against anti-trust laws in e-book price-fixing case

US District Judge Denise Cote found that Apple was part of a conspiracy to increase e-book retail prices. An Apple spokesperson maintained that 'we've done nothing wrong.'

Shaun Stanley/The Durango Herald/AP
Various e-readers are put on display at the Durango Public Library in Durango, Colo.

US District Judge Denise Cote ruled in New York that Apple was involved in a conspiracy to increase e-book retail prices, siding with the US Department of Justice.

“Apple chose to join forces with the publisher defendants to raise e-book prices and equipped them with the means to do so," Cote wrote in her decision. "Without Apple's orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did.”

An Apple spokesperson, however, told the Wall Street Journal “we’ve done nothing wrong.”

“Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations," the spokesperson, who was not named, said. "When we introduced the iBookstore in 2010, we gave customers more choice, injecting much needed innovation and competition into the market, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry… we will appeal the judge's decision.”

Meanwhile, Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer, who is in charge of the antitrust division of the Justice Department, applauded the verdict.

“Companies cannot ignore the antitrust laws when they believe it is in their economic self-interest to do so," Baer said in a statement. "This decision by the court is a critical step in undoing the harm caused by Apple's illegal actions.”

The five publishers who were accused with Apple, including Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, had all settled previously. The publishers and Apple had reportedly worked to raise prices in order to be able to compete with online bookselling giant Amazon. The Department of Justice claimed Apple convinced the publishers to go with the “agency model,” in which the publisher would decide the price of an e-book rather than the retailer selling it. During the case, evidence presented included communications from the late Apple founder Steve Jobs.

As reported by Monitor writer Husna Haq, some thought Cote might side with Apple when she said, “I thought I had prepared so well” when closing the trial.

“I learned a lot,” Cote continued. “But you have helped me understand so much more through the evidence.”

According to the Department of Justice, the conspiracy between Apple and the publishers cut down on competition in the e-book industry.

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