U.S. Officially Levels E-Book Price Fixing Complaint Against Apple & Publishers

UPDATE: The DOJ has announced settlement terms with three of the six publisher named in the lawsuit.
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After months of hinting and flat out saying that they were less than pleased with Apple and several major publishers over e-book pricing, the U.S. government has finally gone ahead and filed a lawsuit, alleging that the companies conspired to limit price competition.

The lawsuit was filed today, according to Reuters, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise. Back in March, the government explicitly warned Apple, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Group, Pearson Plc and Simon & Schuster that they were ready to sue.

“Apple facilitated the publisher defendants’ collective effort to end retail price competition by coordinating their transition to an agency model across all retailers,” says the complaint, filed in Manhattan federal court by the anti-trust division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Publishers apparently thought that when the iPad came out in 2010, book prices would be slashed the same way songs were when iTunes debuted. That’s when, the government says, late Apple CEO Steve Jobs suggested the booksellers team up with Apple in an agency model, where prices would be set across the board. And that way, Apple would score a 30% share of each sale.

A few of the publishers had reportedly been in talks to settle things with the government, but clearly that didn’t work out satisfactorily for any of the parties involved.

US accuses Apple, publishers of e-book price fixing [Reuters]