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Apple Ebook Price-Fixing Appeal Rejected by U.S. Supreme Court

The U.S. Supreme Court Monday declined to hear Apple’s appeal of a ruling upholding a decision that it conspired with five book publishers to set retail prices of ebooks.

With the high court’s rejection, Apple must pay $450 million to settle antitrust litigation under the terms of a 2014 settlement. The publishers in the case were Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Group USA and Simon & Schuster.

The Department of Justice in April 2012 sued Apple and the five publishers, alleging the companies conspired to control retail pricing of ebooks and that the actions substantially raised prices consumers paid for ebooks. The DOJ said the scheme resulted in Apple charging as much as $14.99 for titles available from Amazon.com for $9.99.

Under the settlement, Apple will pay $400 million to consumers affected by higher ebook pricing. Amazon said in a statement: “We are ready to distribute the court-mandated settlement funds to Kindle customers as soon as we’re instructed to move forward.” Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

The case against Apple, which was consolidated with suits brought by 33 states and territories, went to trial in 2013. In July 2013, U.S. District Judge Denise Judge Cote found Apple liable for knowingly participating in and facilitating a conspiracy with the publishers. Last June the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld the decision.

The DOJ reached settlements with three of the publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster – when it filed the suit in 2012, and subsequently settled with Penguin and Macmillan. Under the settlements, each publisher was required to terminate agreements that prevented e-book retailers from lowering the prices at which they sell e-books to consumers and to allow for retail price competition in renegotiated e-book distribution agreements.

In a separate case, Apple is fighting a federal judge’s order that it assist the FBI in unlocking an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino attackers. Apple argues that the order is unconstitutional, and the tech giant has received support from AT&T, Google, Facebook and others in opposing the U.S. government’s demands.

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