The US justice department yesterday filed a civil antitrust lawsuit against Apple Inc and major book publishers, saying that the companies colluded to raise the price of e-books in 2010.
With three publishers that were investigated - Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins willing to settle, a pricing model that allows publishers to set their own e-book prices even as they dangle the possibility of lower e-books prices for consumers in the near future could overturn.
Macmillan and Penguin Group USA, which also figured in the suit, have refused to settle.
The lawsuit, which describes meetings of publishing executives at private dinners at pricey restaurants, alleges that Apple and the publishers conspired to limit e-book price competition, causing ''e-book consumers to pay tens of millions of dollars more for e-books than they otherwise would have paid.''
US attorney general Eric H Holder Jr and Sharis A Pozen, the acting director of the justice department's antitrust division, held a news conference yesterday to disclose the lawsuit and the settlements.
According to Pozen, the settlement would start undoing the harm caused by the companies' anticompetitive conduct, and would restore price competition so that consumers could pay lower prices for their e-books.