Apple denies Justice charges, says they’re “not true”

April 13, 2012

Apple is denying charges made by the Department of Justice that it colluded with publishers to fix the prices of e-books.

In a statement, Apple said that the charges made by Justice are not true, and that the introduction of the agency model — in which publishers, not retailers set the price of e-books — was of great benefit to the industry.

Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr sent the following statement to the Post:

“The DOJ’s accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true. The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry. Since then customers have benefited from eBooks that are more interactive and engaging. Just as we’ve allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore.”

It’s pretty clear that Apple is thinking along the same lines as the other publishers who are fighting the Justice charges and even some of the publishers who settled with Justice.

HarperCollins, which agreed to settle with Justice, listed several aspects of the publishing industry it attributes directly to the agency model in a statement sent to news organizations on Wednesday.

“After HarperCollins adopted the agency model in 2010, the e-book market exploded giving consumers more choices of devices, formats and prices that would never have existed but for the agency model,” the company said. The publisher’s examples include the launch of the Barnes and Noble Nook Book Store, the introduction of new e-reader devices and the rise of enhanced e-books, which incorporate video and audio. The statement doesn’t explain how, exactly, the agency model enabled all these developments, though the implication is that it shook up the industry enough to help other companies compete with the industry’s leading force, Amazon.

The case has the potential to dramatically shift the e-book market, and consumers will likely see prices of the electronic titles drop, as the three publishers who have settled — Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster — aren’t allowed to constrain retailer discounts for two years. Penguin and Macmillan have said they will not settle.

According to a report from Reuters, Apple, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette and MacMillan parent company Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck have all sent proposals to the European Union trying to resolve an anti-trust probe in Europe.

Joaquin Alumnia, the E.U.’s competition chief, told Reuters that it is in “fruitful discussions” with the companies and that its suggestions will need to be assessed by third parties. He said investigation into Penguin, which is also named in the E.U. probe, is ongoing.

Related stories:

Justice Department sues Apple, publishers over e-book prices

Justice Department threatens to sue Apple, publishers over e-book prices

Apple, publishers named in E.U. e-book antitrust probe

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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