Apple Settles E-Book Antitrust Class Action Suit; Terms Not Revealed

The saga surrounding Apple’s purported e-book price-fixing collusion ring seems to be entering its final chapter –– but not without keeping things shrouded in mystery for a little while longer.

According to Reuters, Apple reached an out-of-court settlement with several U.S. states and a number of other complainants in an e-book class action lawsuit.

While the terms of the agreement have yet to be revealed, settling the case means Apple will avoid a trial, expected to begin next month, in which the company faced nearly a billion dollars in claims.

U.S. District Judge in Manhattan Denise Cote ordered the parties to submit a filing to seek approval of the settlement within 30 days.

The ongoing price-fixing scandal began back in 2012 when the U.S. Department of Justice sued Apple and five publishers – Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Group (USA) Inc, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster Inc – accusing them of colluding to increase the price of e-books.

Since that time, 33 states and U.S. territories, as well as individual consumers, brought a class action lawsuit against the company. In all, the complainants sought up to $840 million in damages for e-book customers.

Previously, the publishers named in the case agreed to pay more than $166 million to consumers in 32 states in order to settle related charges.

While news of Monday’s settlement might appear to put the antitrust issues to rest, that simply isn’t the case. Apple is appealing a July 2013 federal court decision in the case brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in which the company was found liable for colluding with publishers.

At the time, Cote found Apple took part in a price-fixing conspiracy to fight online retailer Amazon’s dominance in the e-book market.

In her decision, Cote cited “compelling evidence” from the words of the late Steve Jobs that Apple knew exactly what it was doing by working with publishers to raise prices.

Shortly after that decision, an Apple spokesman said the company was planning an appeal.

“Apple did not conspire to fix e-book pricing and we will continue to fight against these false accusations,” he said. “We’ve done nothing wrong.”

Monday’s settlement is contingent on the outcome of Apple’s appeal.

Apple settles e-book antitrust case with U.S. states, others [Reuters]