NEW YORK, May 15 (Reuters) - Apple Inc and five major book
publishers have failed to persuade a U.S. judge to throw out a
lawsuit by consumers accusing them of conspiring to raise electronic book prices two years ago.
The lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York is related to
government charges in April accusing Apple and publishers of
colluding to break up Amazon.com's low-cost dominance of the
digital book market. HarperCollins Publishers Inc, Simon &
Schuster Inc and Hachette Book Group reached settlements with
the Department of Justice's anti-trust division.
Apple and two of the publishers, Macmillan and Penguin,
said in court last month that they want to go to trial to defend
themselves against the government charges. The judge has
scheduled the next pre-trial hearing for June 22.
The consumers' main allegation is that the publishers worked
together to raise prices and decrease retail competition with
Apple coordinating the agreement among them.
In a written ruling on a bid by Apple and the five
publishers to dismiss the class action lawsuit, U.S. District
Judge Denise Cote said in part on Tuesday that as alleged in the
complaint, "it is presumed that the conduct by all parties would
be unlawful under the rule of reason."
Apple, Simon & Schuster, Penguin and HarperCollins
representatives could not immediately be reached to comment on
the ruling. Hachette declined to comment.
In court papers, the defendants described the pricing
agreement allegation as implausible. One of their arguments was
that after the purported pricing agreement, prices became more
varied, not less so.
The government said the price-fixing took place in early
2010 as Apple was introducing its iPad. E-book prices went up an
average of $2 to $3 in a three-day period in early 2010,
according to the complaint.
The defendants in the case brought by consumers are
HarperCollins Publishers LLC; Hachette Book Group Inc and
Hachette Digital; Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC doing business as
Macmillan; Penguin Group (USA) Inc; and Simon & Schuster Inc and
Simon & Schuster Digital Sales Inc.
News Corp owns HarperCollins Publishers Inc, CBS Corp owns
Simon & Schuster Inc and Hachette Book Group is a subsidiary of
Lagardere SCA. Penguin is part of Pearson Plc's.
The case is In re: Electronic Books Antitrust Litigation in
U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No.
(Reporting by Grant McCool; Additional reporting by Diane
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