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Apple found guilty of ebook price fixing

Apple has been found guilty of “facilitating and executing” a conspiracy to fix the price of ebooks in an American court.

A further trial will be required to decide what damages the Cupertino company must pay, but Apple has been found guilty of ebook price fixing by Judge Denise Cote of the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Judge Cote ruled that Apple had “conspired to restrain trade” in an attempt to undercut Amazon’s ebook market dominance.

“The Plaintiffs have shown that the Publisher Defendants conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise ebook prices,” wrote Judge Cote. “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.”

Five publishers have already been taken to court for the same offence and have been fined for their participation. Penguin was fined $75 million (£49 million) and Macmillan settled for $26 million (£17 million). The three other accused publishers, HarperCollins, Hachette and Simon & Schuster, created a joint fund of $69 million (£46 million) with which to compensate customers.

The apparently Apple-led conspiracy led to a “dramatic” increase in the average price of ebooks, costing consumers millions through the inflated prices.

“Apple seized the moment and brilliantly played its hand. Through the vehicle of the Apple agency agreements, the prices in the nascent ebook industry shift upward, in some cases 50 per cent or more for an individual title.”

The jury-less trial lasted three weeks during which Apple claimed the allegations were a “misguided story” without any substantial evidence.

However, Judge Cote maintained that some of the evidence against Apple actually came from the man himself, Steve Jobs.

“Compelling evidence of Apple’s participation in the conspiracy came from the words uttered by Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder, CEO and visionary. Apple has struggled mightily to reinterpret Job’s statements in a way that will eliminate their bite. Its efforts have proven fruitless.”

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