Supreme Court Lets Apple Price-Fixing Decision Stand

The Supreme Court has declined to hear Apple's appeal of a $450 million class-action settlement and an appeals court decision upholding a lower court ruling it fixed e-book prices.

That came in the court's list of cases denied cert Tuesday.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals in June 2015 affirmed that Apple orchestrated a conspiracy with major publishing companies to raise the prices of e-books accessed on its devices, as the Justice Department had alleged and a lower court had found.

Early on, News Corp. subsidiary HarperCollins and CBS-owned Simon & Schuster settled with the Justice Department over the allegations that they and two other publishers conspired with Apple.

Justice had alleged that the defendants conspired with Apple to limit e-book price competition as a way to curtail Amazon's ability to discount those books and to prevent Amazon's $9.99 from becoming the de facto price, and the lower courts agreed.

Technology think tank TechFreedom took issue with the Supreme Court's refusal even to hear Apple's arguments.

“The question here wasn’t actually whether Apple should win, but whether Apple should even be allowed to argue that its arrangement could benefit consumers,” said TechFreedom president Berin Szoka in a statement. “Apple made a strong case that its deal with publishers was critical to allowing it compete with Amazon. The Supreme Court might or might not have found those arguments convincing, but it should have at least weighed them under antitrust’s flexible rule of reason. By letting the rigid per se deal stand as the controlling legal standard, the Court has ensured that antitrust law in general will put obsolete legal precedents from the pre-digital era above consumer welfare.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.