Apple settles with US states on e-book price-fix

Apple settles with US states on e-book price-fix

Apple has agreed to an undisclosed settlement in the e-book price fixing case in the US after bowing out of a civil class action lawsuit taken by 33 US states and individual consumers.

A document filed with a New York court by lawyer Steve Berman, said that Apple and the state of Texas, et al, had reached an agreement.

“The parties write to inform the Court that the Class Plaintiffs, State Plaintiffs, and Apple have executed a binding agreement in principle to resolve the Class litigation, and the damages phase of the States’ litigation,” the letter said.

The move means Apple has agreed to pay customers who bought e-books from companies like Amazon and Barnes & Noble during the time Apple and the five publishers were accused of colluding over the introduction of fixed prices on e-books.

While the sum is currently undisclosed and under review by the court, the figure Apple has to pay customers could be hundreds of millions of dollars, according to gigaom. Customers will already share a pot of $160m that publishers Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Hachette have paid into after settling last year.

Apple is continuing to appeal a verdict in the Department of Justice's investigation into colllusion. Last July Judge Denise Cote, cited “admissions” by the late Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder, as well as emails and telephone calls between Apple, Amazon and publishing executives as proof that the retailer acted as a ringleader in a conspiracy to fix prices – otherwise known as the agency model - as it launched its digital books business in 2010, the FT noted. The latest settlement is dependent on the outcome of that appeal.

After Apple entered the market, several publishers changed their relationships with other retailers, including Amazon, to the agency model, which forced consumers to incur higher costs for e-books, according to the US government. The five publishers settled with the Department of Justice without admitting guilt.