Apple Inc lost its bid to block consumers in almost three dozen US states and territories from suing as a group over ebook price-fixing, as they and state attorneys-general seek as much as US$840 million in damages.
US District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan concluded in July last year that Apple violated antitrust laws in its contracts with e-book publishers. The ruling came after a nonjury trial in cases filed by the US Justice Department and 33 states and territories.
In Friday’s decision, Cote said consumers in the states and territories that did not take part in the trial may pursue their claims together as a class action, which allows plaintiffs to pool resources. Cote plans a separate trial to determine damages to the states and consumers. The US Justice Department sought only corrective orders in the case and did not seek damages.
The US sued Apple and five of the biggest publishers in April 2012, claiming the maker of the iPad pushed publishers to sign agreements letting it sell digital copies of their books under a model that raised prices and harmed consumers.
In her ruling, Cote denied a request by Apple to throw out the opinion of an expert witness who estimates the damages to US consumers at US$280 million, which may be tripled under antitrust law.
Cote must still determine to what extent the class of consumers may use her July ruling to help prove their case.