Apple to face US authorities in court over ebook price fixing

APPLE will go up against the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in court today over allegations that the company colluded with major publishers to fix ebook prices.

The authorities claim that prices became artificially high due to an Apple-mediated collusion, which saw publishers change the way they sold ebooks to retailers.

In the months leading up to the release of the iPad and Apple’s iBookstore in 2010, the firm’s late chief executive Steve Jobs met book publishers and encouraged them to shift pricing models to one in which the publisher set the retail price, with the seller taking a cut. Previously, a publisher would sell to a retailer at a fixed price with the retailer then choosing what price to sell at.

The new model resulted in higher ebook prices, but eased publishers’ concerns about Amazon dominating the market.

Five of the world's six major publishers – Penguin, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette and MacMillan – were also accused but have since settled, leaving Apple to fight the case on its own.

Rather than seeking a fine, the authorities are demanding that the court orders Apple not to engage in such behaviour again.

Apple says it was not attempting to set up collusion.