A U.S. appeals court on Tuesday upheld a 2013 ruling that Apple led an illegal conspiracy to fix prices of e-books in violation of anti-trust laws.
The decision was finalized by a 2-1 ruling in the Second USA Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan on Tuesday.
The result, the plaintiffs said, was to squeeze Amazon and encourage higher e-book prices.
“We are disappointed the Court doesn’t recognise the innovation and choice the iBooks Store brought for consumers”.
In a statement, the company says that “while we want to put this behind us, the case is about principles and values”. Their majority opinion also leaves in place the role of attorney Michael Bromwich as Apple’s court-appointed monitor.
“Apple not only willingly joined the conspiracy, but also forcefully facilitated it”, Judge Denise Cote said in her 2013 decision.
Jacobs wrote in his opinion that “Apple took steps to compete with a monopolist and open the market to more entrants, generating only minor competitive restraints in the process”.
The book publishers in the case-Harper Collins, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, Hachette and Macmillan-elected to settle before the case went to trial but Apple, adamant that it did nothing wrong, chose to fight on alone. “I recognize that the publisher defendants, who used Apple both as powerful leverage against Amazon and to keep each other in collusive check, may appear to be more culpable than Apple”, Lohier wrote.
The appeals court has ruled that Apple can appeal to the Supreme Court.
It’s a long story, but could this be the end? Publishers were able to set their own prices and Apple would give them a percentage of sales under an agency pricing model. The arrangement, which was concluded as blatant price-fixing, will finally pave the way for Apple to begin issuing part of the $450 million fine in consumer payouts, under the ruling of a similar class-action settlement dependent on today’s ruling.
Any amount received by consumers pursuant to the settlement with Apple will be in addition to those amounts already recovered from several E-book publishers.
“We are gratified by the court’s decision”, said assistant attorney general Bill Baer, who heads up the antitrust division.