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Supreme Court Refuses Review of Apple E-Book Price-Fix Case

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By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on March 11, 2016 3:07 PM

It's the end of the line for Apple and five e-book publishers who have been accused of conspiring to increase prices. The Supreme Court this week declined to hear Apple's appeal and the company will have to pay $450 million in damages for engaging in a conspiracy and violating federal antitrust law.

Apple had argued that allowing the lower court ruling to stand would chill innovation and risk-taking, according to Reuters. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals had concluded that Apple was central in a collaborative effort among publishers to raise prices.

E-Conspiracy

The Justice Department says that Apple's scheme led to a hike in e-book prices from $9.99 to as high as $14.99. The publishers that the technology company worked with on the illegal scheme are Lagardere SCA's, Hachette Book Group Inc, News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Group, CBS Corp's, Simon & Schuster and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH's Macmillan.

Apple is interested in e-books because it makes devices that allow people to read electronically, of course. The publishers are interested in keeping up the price of books, and concerned that Amazon was driving them down. By agreeing to an agency agreement with Apple ahead of a new iPad release, the publishers promised the tech company a 30 percent commission on the books.

The Justice Department expressed pleasure that the case was over and the the Supreme Court would not be reviewing the matter. "Apple's liability for knowingly conspiring with book publishers to raise the prices of e-books is settled once and for all," said Bill Baer, head of the antitrust division.

Reader Reactions

The publishers have faced a bit of a backlash for the book conspiracy as well. Readers have complained online that they won't pay practically the same price for an e-book as they would for print. While electronic reading is likely here to stay, it no longer seems that the printed book will be permanently replaced.

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