US Justice Department threatens publishers, and Apple, over ebook pricing collusion, says WSJ
March 8, 2012 | 12:26 am
By Paul Biba
That’s what the Wall Street Journal is reporting, but I can’t find anything else about it, at least so far. Here’s what the Journal says:
The Justice Department has warned Apple Inc. and five of the biggest U.S. publishers that it plans to sue them for allegedly colluding to raise the price of electronic books, according to people familiar with the matter.
Several of the parties have held talks to settle the antitrust case and head off a potentially damaging court battle, these people said. If successful, such a settlement could have wide-ranging repercussions for the industry, potentially leading to cheaper e-books for consumers. However, not every publisher is in settlement discussions.
The five publishers facing a potential suit are CBS Corp.’s Simon & Schuster Inc.; Lagardere SCA’s Hachette Book Group; Pearson PLC’s Penguin Group (USA); Macmillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH; and HarperCollins Publishers Inc., a unit of News Corp. , which also owns The Wall Street Journal.
As a lawyer with a fair familiarity with anti-trust matters, this does not surprise me at all. I have long felt that conspiracy charges are a real possibility in the way ebook pricing has developed.
The way this is developing is not unusual. The Justice Department often tries to settle cases before they even become public. Therefore, it is to be expected that they will have “private talks” to reach a settlement before bringing charges or publishing anything.
We are in for some interesting times, especially since the European Union and British regulators have also expressed concerns over the way ebook pricing has developed.