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Apple denies price-fixing charges on e-books

The company says it allows publishers to set their own prices. Several antitrust lawsuits have accused former chief Steve Jobs of inflating prices of new releases and bestsellers.

April 14, 2012|By Andrea Chang, Los Angeles Times

Apple Inc., responding for the first time to antitrust charges levied against it and five major book publishers this week, denied that it had engaged in price-fixing to inflate prices paid for electronic books.

In a statement to The Times on Friday, Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said that the Department of Justice's accusation against Apple "is simply not true."

Neumayr said customers have benefited from e-books that are more interactive and engaging and, "just as we've allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore."

"The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry," he said.

On Wednesday, federal and state officials filed several antitrust lawsuits against the companies and said former Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs was a key player in the conspiracy to drive up the prices of digital books.

Jobs helped orchestrate a complex price-fixing plan that cost consumers tens of millions of dollars over the last two years by boosting the price of many new releases and bestsellers by $3 to $5 each, federal investigators said.

The five publishers — Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan and Penguin Group — have also vehemently denied the allegations.

Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, however, agreed to a settlement with the Justice Department that would require them to allow retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble to reduce the prices of e-books they sell from the publishers. If approved by a federal judge, the settlement would restore competition to the e-book market, federal officials said.

Apple, Macmillan and Penguin did not agree to a settlement. The Justice Department promised that it would pursue the case against them vigorously in an attempt to keep the emerging e-book market "open and competitive."

andrea.chang@latimes.com

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