U.S. sues Apple, publishers over e-book price-fixing

The Justice Department and 16 states, including Illinois, have sued Apple Inc. and major book publishers, alleging a conspiracy to raise the price of electronic books that Attorney General Eric Holder says cost consumers millions of dollars.

The government also has reached a settlement with three publishers, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Shuster. But it will proceed with its lawsuit in federal court in New York City against Apple and Holtzbrinck Publishers, doing business as Macmillan, and The Penguin Publishing Co. Ltd., doing business as Penguin Group.

Holder told Justice Department news conference on Wednesday that “we believe that consumers paid millions of dollars more for some of the most popular titles” as a result of the alleged conspiracy. Justice’s antitrust chief Sharon Pozen said the scheme added $2 to $3 to the prices of individual books.

“By colluding to fix the price of e-books, publishers and Apple essentially forced consumers to pay millions more for e-books than they otherwise would have paid,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said in a statement. “Enforcing the state’s antitrust laws will ensure that consumers receive the full benefit of competitive pricing and choice in the marketplace.”

Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen said the total cost to consumers was more than $100 million.