[UPDATED] Apple conspired to fix e-book prices rules judge

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Apple conspired with  publishers to fix the price of e-books, a US judge has ruled on Tuesday.Manhattan Judge Denise Cote said the tech giant “conspired to restrain trade”.

However,the company’s spokesman, Tom Neumayr, said Apple would appeal against the ruling and fight the “false allegations”.

The five publishers that were originally named as defendants alongside Apple in the case have already reached settlements. The judge ordered a new hearing to determine what damages should be imposed upon Apple.

The US Department of Justice said the conspiracy was designed to challenger Amazon’s dominance of the fast-growing e-books market. Penguin settled its case for $75m (£49m). Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster created a $69m fund for refunds to consumers, and Macmillan settled for $26m.

Judge Cote said “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,” adding that  “Without Apple’s orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did in the spring of 2010,” she said.

The US Assistant Attorney General, Bill Baer called the ruling “a victory for millions of consumers who choose to read books electronically”. He said the judge agreed with the Justice Department and 33 state attorneys general that executivesof the highest level within Apple orchestrated a conspiracy with five major publishers to raise prices of e-books.

“Through today’s court decision and previous settlements with five major publishers, consumers are again benefiting from retail price competition and paying less for their e-books,” Mr Baer said.

But after the ruling, Apple’s spokesman, Mr Neumayr insisted that Apple had brought innovation and competition to the market, not restricted it. “Apple did not conspire to fix e-book pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations,” he said. “We’ve done nothing wrong.”

Previously, Apple’s attorney, Orin Snyder, told the court that Judge Cote would set a “dangerous precedent” if she concluded that Apple had indeed manipulated the prices of e-books.

Earlier this year , Apple CEO Tim Cook dismissed the idea of reaching a settlement with the government, saying “We didn’t do anything wrong there,we’re going to fight.

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An Apple spokesperson gave TNC a statement about the judgement.

“Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations.” Apple told TNC.

“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’ve done nothing wrong and we will appeal the judge’s decision.”

Source – BBC News

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