DoJ Accuses Publishers and Apple Again of Conspiring

Apple and the US Department of Justice will meet today to talk about the tech giant’s punishment in the eBook price fixing case. Preparing for this meeting, both sides have submitted their filings to the court. While these filings contain some expected differences — such as Apple wants a stay, and the DoJ does not — the more interesting part is that the DoJ is pointing to the five publishers, claiming they are conspiring once again.



According to the filings obtained by GigaOm, the DoJ claims the five publishers — with whom they settled before ending up in a trial — have banded together once again. The claims comes as a reply to the publishers’ reaction to the DoJ proposal to Apple. They say if Apple is allowed to discount their eBooks for five years — instead of the two years specified in the settlements – it would hurt their business. The DoJ seems to be pushing for repercussions for the publishers beyond the agreed terms.

“A necessary component of this Court’s decision finding Apple liable for horizontal price-fixing is that the publishers themselves were engaged in a horizontal price-fixing conspiracy…[There] is reason to believe the Publisher Defendants may be positioning themselves to pick things back up where they left off as soon as their two-year clocks run. Indeed, the very fact that the Publisher Defendants have banded together once again, this time to jointly oppose two provisions in the Proposed Final Judgment that they believe could result in lower ebook prices for consumers, only highlights why it is necessary to ensure that Apple (and hopefully other retailers) can discount ebooks and compete on retail price for as long as possible,” says DOJ attorney Lawrence Buterman.

Apple’s filing, on the other hand, points to multiple testimonies disregarded by the judge and says it has serious credibility issues with the Google and Amazon witnesses.

And they cannot agree — at least for now — because both parties want something different: Apple wants a stay, while the DoJ doesn’t.

Another interesting twist to the case is that eBook company Kobo and lobbying firm Consumer Federation of America are stepping in, both of whom favour the government’s position.