The anti-trust division of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] filed a complaint [text, PDF] on Wednesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] accusing Apple [corporate website] and other major publishers of colluding to illegally fix electronic book (e-book) prices. The complaint alleges that Apple and publishing companies, including HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan, Penguin and Simon & Schuster, conspired to increase e-book prices in an effort to compete with e-books and the economically-priced Kindle [product page] sold by Amazon [corporate website]. The DOJ investigation of the defendants' conduct revealed conversations between company executives in which they agreed to proceed under the guise of a joint venture in order to raise prices. The lawsuit claims that the defendants' conduct constitutes violations of the Sherman Act [text], and the DOJ is requesting declaratory and injunctive relief. US Attorney General Eric Holder [official website] also announced [speech text] Wednesday that, in response to the lawsuit, three of the publishing companies agreed to settlements with the DOJ.
The DOJ lawsuit is strikingly similar to a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] filed in August in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website]. The lawsuit claims that Apple's conduct constitutes violations of federal and state antitrust laws, including the Sherman Act, the Cartwright Act and the Unfair Competition Act [texts]. The European Commission for Competition [official website] announced in December that it will investigate Apple for anti-competitive practices [JURIST report] in connection with its dealings with several publishers.