updated 10:00 pm EDT, Fri March 28, 2014
Second of three lawsuits Apple is facing over e-book pricing
Judge Denise Cote, the same jurist that notably pre-announced Apple's likely guilt when she oversaw the Department of Justice lawsuit against Apple, has granted class-action status to various consumers and consumer groups that are also suing Apple and the various publishers over alleged price-fixing of e-book prices -- even though most prices under the "agency model" Apple used have in fact fallen. The iPhone maker lost the first suit, with Judge Cote ruling that Apple somehow "led" a price-fixing conspiracy among publishers in an effort to bust Amazon's near-monopoly of the e-book market.
Also waiting in the wings is another lawsuit over the matter, brought by 33 states and US territories by the attorneys general on behalf of consumers who were allegedly harmed by the publishers' and Apple's actions, which saw a short-lived hike in best-selling titles (averaging about $2) but opened the door for other publishers and resellers to join the growing market and combat both Amazon's near-total domination of ebook sales as well as its abusive relationship with publishers, who felt Amazon's loss-leader e-book pricing was devaluing the product and unsustainable.
Having pre-announced that Apple was likely guilty before the trial even began, Judge Cote rather unsurprisingly ruled that Apple had broken antitrust law in unspecified ways, discounting contradictory evidence from Apple executives and Sony, as well as relying on testimony from e-book competitors Amazon and Google that was later revised and contradicted.
Along with the consumer class-action lawsuit, Judge Cote will also be overseeing the states' lawsuit against Apple -- meaning the company will likely have to pay largely the same buyers three times, as she is seen by both Apple and outside legal observers as extremely unlikely to change her initial ruling, on which the groups will be relying as the crux of their own lawsuits. While her original verdict is being appealed, the states will press on with their case, which is seeking more than $800 million in damages. The consumer class action has not announced how much it is seeking.