Apple Accused of Fixing e-Book Prices in Controversial New Lawsuit

A new class-action lawsuit alleges that Apple has “conspired” with publishers HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster to wrongfully fix and escalate e-book prices.

Likening Apple’s actions to a plot intended “to boost profits and force e-book rival to abandon its pro-consumer discount pricing,” the lawsuit assuses Apple of unfair business practices.

Filed this week in a California district court by law firm Hagens Berman on behalf of plaintiffs Anthony Petru and Marcus Mathis, the suit blames Apple and its publishing cohorts for having “colluded… to illegally fix prices.”

Now it’s up to the legal system to decide if Apple truly is “in violation of a variety of federal and state antitrust laws.”

“As a result of the pricing conspiracy, prices of ebooks have exploded, jumping as much as 50%. When an ebook version of a bestseller costs close to or even more than its hard-copy counterpart, it doesn’t take a forensic economist to see that this is evidence of market manipulation,” said Steve Berman, founding partner of Hagens Berman, in a press release about the suit.

“Fortunately for the publishers, they had a co-conspirator as terrified as they were over Amazon’s popularity and pricing structure, and that was Apple. We intend to prove that Apple needed a way to neutralize Amazon’s Kindle before its popularity could challenge the upcoming introduction of the iPad – a device Apple intended to compete as an e-reader,” Berman concluded in the statement.