In what could be a landmark ruling in the e-book industry, a US district court judge has decided to side with the US government in their case against Apple. The government claimed Apple worked with the major US book publishers to fix and raise the prices of e-books when Apple launched its iBooks platform in 2010.
Reuters reports that U.S. District Judge Denise Cote has now ruled that Apple did indeed conspire to boost e-book prices with those publishers. Cote ruled after Apple and the government went to trial on this subject in June. With today’s ruling, the next step is another trial to be held later that will set up the damages that Apple will have to pay.
In her decision, Cote said that prices for e-books went up to $12.99 or $14.99 on iBooks, compared to the $9.99 price that Amazon has for similar e-books. She added:
The plaintiffs have shown that the publisher defendants conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy … Without Apple’s orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did in the spring of 2010.
The government has already settled the e-book conspiracy cases with the five book publishers that Apple worked with (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon and Schuster) for a total amount of $164 million. Before and during the trial in June, Apple said the government’s charges were not true. It also pointed out that since the launch of iBooks for iOS in 2010, the average price for an e-book has gone down.