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Apple to go to trial in June 2013 over alleged e-book price fixing

Apple and the Department of Justice will face off on charges of e-book collusion on 3 June 2013, according to new court documents.

In a scheduling order filed yesterday, New York district judge Denise Cote said the trial will begin at 9:30 approximately one year from now, though various status conferences will be conducted before then.

According to Electronista, the start date is a compromise: later than Apple wanted but earlier than the DOJ would have liked.

In April, the DOJ announced that it had filed suit against Apple and five other publishers over an alleged "illegal conspiracy" involving e-book price fixing. Apple, as well as publishers Macmillan and Penguin, are fighting the charges, while Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster agreed to a proposed settlement. Citing a cloud over the industry, and damage to its reputation, Apple wanted to get the trial over as soon as possible, Electronista said. Meanwhile, the DOJ pushed for a later start, claiming that investigators needed until March just to gather evidence.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In April, the company released a statement denying any wrongdoing, calling the DOJ's accusation "simply not true." Apple filed a formal response to the lawsuit in May, saying that the company brought competition to the e-book world where Amazon did not.

The suit dates back to 2009, when Apple and publishing executives allegedly worked together to increase e-book prices for consumers, in an effort to eliminate competition among retailers selling e-books.

"As a result of this alleged conspiracy, we believe that consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles," Attorney General Eric Holder said during an April press conference.

According to a scheduling order from Cote, the parties have until 20 July to schedule settlement discussions that would begin no later than autumn 2012.

When asked for comment today, a spokeswoman for Penguin Group forwarded 11 April comments from the publishing company's chairman John Makinson. The company refused a settlement for two reasons: "The first is that we have done nothing wrong," Makinson said at the time. The second is rooted in the belief that the agency's model provides consumers with an open and competitive market.

"We reasoned that the prevention of a monopoly in the supply of e-books had to be in the best interests, not just of Penguin, but of consumers, authors, and booksellers as well," Makinson said.

Macmillan Publishers did not immediately respond to request for comment.

Yesterday's order also outlined a specific timeline instructing all parties that motions must be submitted to the court. The final pretrial conference is scheduled for 24 May.