U.S. Lawyer Faced Tough Questioning in Apple E-books Antitrust Case

According to a Reuters report, a U.S. government lawyer had to face tough questioning today in the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, while defending a judge’s ruling that Apple conspired with five publishers to raise e-book prices. The publication notes that some judges appeared “sympathetic to Apple’s contention that it engaged in pro-competitive conduct” when it entered the e-books market in 2010 to compete with Amazon.

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While replying to Judge Dennis Jacobs’s question why it was wrong for the publishers to get together to defeat a “monopolist” i.e Amazon, Malcolm Stewart, the Justice Department lawyer, said that “no publisher on its own would have entered into the deals with Apple unless they were conspiring to drive up e-book prices”. “It was to combat the public perception that books are only worth so much,” Stewart said. He also said the scheme caused some e-book prices to rise to $12.99 or $14.99 from the $9.99 that Amazon charged.

“Apple has denied wrongdoing and argues its entry into the e-books market actually helped push e-books prices on average down overall. “We think the conduct here was innovative and pro-competitive,” Theodore Boutrous, Apple’s lawyer, argued Monday. If Apple wins the appeal, it could jeopardize a related $450 million settlement among Apple, 33 attorneys general, and lawyers for a class of consumers.

Some judges appeared open to Apple’s arguments. Circuit Judge Debra Livingston, for example, called it “troubling,” that Apple’s contracts with the publishers that normally would be “perfectly legal” had been subject to allegations of a scheme”.

Earlier this month, Apple’s Eddy Cue also spoke up about the antitrust suit in an exclusive interview with Forbes.

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