The US Supreme Court has today declared that it will not hear Apple's appeal of the contentious e-book case that started in 2013. As a result, Apple is on the hook for the full amount of the 2014 settlement: $400 million to e-book consumers, $20 million to the assortment of states who filed a lawsuit on the matter on behalf of consumers, and $30 million in legal fees.
The company was found by the judge in a bench trial
to have colluded with Hachette, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Penguin, and Simon & Schuster in order to undermine Amazon, which until the launch of Apple's iBookstore was able to sell e-books for a money-losing standard
of $10, which many critics at the time noted was intended to make it impossible for smaller competitors to enter the market, and which publishers objected to.
"The plaintiffs have shown that the publisher defendants conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, and that Apple played a central role in facilitating and executing that conspiracy," Judge Denise Cote wrote in her controversial ruling
, finding Apple guilty of the price fixing. The verdict has been decried by legal analysts
, antitrust experts
, and the press
. "Without Apple's orchestration of this conspiracy, it would not have succeeded as it did in the spring of 2010," Cote claimed.
Cote noted that the publishers' switch to an agency model, discussed by the publishers amongst themselves long before the iBookstore concept, forced a number of best-selling e-books to climb in price to $13 or $15. The finding was despite contradictory testimony
from Google, Barnes & Noble, and even some Amazon executives that Apple had not introduced, facilitated or required
that pricing structure.
A decision by the Federal appeals court in February upheld Judge Denise Cote's ruling
to approve the settlement, reports Reuters
, with the court believing Cote didn't abuse her powers nor approved the settlement too early in proceedings. In the Second Circuit ruling
, the court highlighted testimony from an expert that consumers could end up with a greater award from the settlement than they claimed to lose in the first place, even when taking into account $166 million in settlements with publishers.