Judge says Apple may take bite out of profit
A US judge on Friday gave final approval to Apple’s agreement to pay $450 million (R4.9 billion) to resolve claims it harmed consumers by conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices.
During a hearing in Manhattan, US District Judge Denise Cote approved what she called a “highly unusual” accord. It called for Apple to pay $400m to as many as 23 million consumers if the company was unsuccessful in appealing a ruling that found it liable for antitrust violations.
The $400m comes on top of earlier settlements with five publishers in the case, which provided $166m for e-book purchasers.
Apple agreed to the settlement in June, ahead of a damages trial set for two months later in which attorneysgeneral in 33 states and territories and lawyers for a class of consumers were expected to seek up to $840m.
During Friday’s hearing, Cote said it was an “unusually structured settlement, especially for one arrived at on the eve of trial”.
The deal allows Apple to continue to appeal the judge’s July 2013 ruling that Apple had violated antitrust laws by colluding with the publishers to drive up e-book prices and impede rivals such as Amazon.com.
That accord calls for Apple to pay $400m to consumers and $50m to lawyers if Cote’s findings are upheld on appeal, and nothing if the company wins its appeal.
If the appeals court overturns the judge and returns the case to her, perhaps for a new trial, Apple would owe $50m to consumers and $20m to lawyers. While the deal was unusual, the judge said that she understood why the plaintiffs decided to go with it, given delay tactics by Apple.
An Apple spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.
A federal appeals court is scheduled to hear Apple’s appeal on December 15. – Reuters