Mon, Feb 03, 2014 - Page 5 News List

Apple faces US$840m ebooks claim


Apple Inc faces as much as US$840 million in US state and consumer antitrust claims related to electronic book deals with publishers that led to a US lawsuit and court-ordered monitor.

State attorneys general and consumers who sued the company over its ebook pricing are seeking US$280 million in damages and want that amount tripled, a lawyer for them said in a filing on Friday with the federal judge in Manhattan who presided over the US case against Apple.

The amount sought is 0.5 percent of the US$158.8 billion in cash that the Cupertino, California-based company reported that it had as of the end of last year.

Sales of ebooks, music, movies, software and services were US$12.9 billion in 2012, 8.2 percent of Apple’s total revenue. Apple introduced ebooks in 2010 to boost the appeal of the newly unveiled iPad tablet as a reading device.

US District Judge Denise Cote concluded in July after a nonjury trial that Apple orchestrated a scheme with publishers to fix the prices of ebooks. Cote also found Apple liable to 33 states that joined the US Justice Department in its suit. The Justice Department did not ask for money damages in its case.

Cote said she will hold a trial this year on the damages sought by the states. While almost all the documents filed by the states and Apple have been redacted or filed under seal, the plaintiffs said in a memo to Cote “the conspiracy caused widespread antitrust injury to ebook consumers” that an expert set at at least US$280 million.

The plaintiffs on Friday asked Cote to issue a ruling before the damages trial ordering the US$280 million penalty to be tripled, based on her conclusions in the government case.

Apple has an emergency request before the US Court of Appeals in New York to halt oversight by Michael Bromwich, a compliance monitor appointed by Cote. Bromwich, a former US Justice Department inspector-general, was accused by Apple of taking inappropriate actions and overbilling.

A federal appeals court judge on Jan. 21 granted Apple a temporary reprieve from the monitor until a panel of appeals court judges could hear its bid for a longer stay. That hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

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