Apple has been singled out as the ringleader in ebook price fixing, as a US case against the tech giant gets underway in Manhattan.
According to multiple sources, US Department of Justice lawyer Lawrence Buterman told a federal court that Apple convinced publishers to drive up the price of e-books, in the face of low-cost alternatives from Amazon.
Apple's lawyers, meanwhile rejected the charges and told the court it had refused to settle because it was adamant that it had done nothing wrong.
“Apple did not conspire with any publisher individually, collectively or otherwise to raise industry prices,” Orin Snyder, Apple's lawyer reportedly told the court.
The antitrust trial, which is expected to last three weeks, follows an extensive investigation by the DoJ. The government agency had already reached settlements with five publishing houses over the issue.
Shortly before the launch of Apple's iPad, the tech giant allegedly convinced book publishers to set new caps on the prices they charged for ebooks, with Apple taking a 30 percent slice of sales.
The model is similar to the one Apple uses for sales of music through iTunes and apps sold through its App Store. But the DoJ believes it forced consumers into paying more for electronic books.
Under the previous wholesale pricing model, retailers were able to set the price of digital books, allowing Amazon to offer best sellers for $9.99.
The so-called “agency model” proposed by Apple saw publishers set the price of books, with prices then rising to $12.99 or $14.99.
Previously released emails between the late Apple boss Steve Jobs and James Murdock – whose News International group owns one of the publishers caught up in the case, HarperCollins – show that negotiations between the two parties went down to the wire. Agreement was only reached hours before the iPad launched.
Apple's chief executive Tim Cook is expected to appear before the court as the case progresses. Apple has also faced similar investigations over its ebook pricing arrangements in Europe and Australia.
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