Last summer, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Apple and a group of major e-book publishers, stating that the companies were colluding to price fix e-books in order to adversely effect competition from Amazon. Today, the DoJ has gone on record to address 868 public comments asking the agency to see Amazon as the bad guy in this story.
In March, the DoJ began an investigation into whether Apple and the others committed anti-trust law violations in an attempt to remain profitable.
At the beginning of April, Apple and five major e-book sellers began talks into settling out of court. However, less than two weeks later, the DoJ officially announced that it would officially file an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple, Macmillan and Penguin.
The three companies that refused to settle claimed that the anti-trust accusations were based “entirely on the little circumstantial evidence [the government] was able to locate.” Penguin even went so far as to call Amazon “predatory” and “monopolist,” and accused the company of anti-competitive behavior.
Today, the DoJ released a document that called Apple and the book publishers’ criticisms as “self-serving” and ill founded, pointing to the fact that Google and Microsoft are thriving in the business and that Amazon’s dominance in the e-book market has been overstated.
The crux of the anti-trust claim is the “Apple Agency Agreements” wherein e-book publishers who sign the agreement may not sell their titles to other retailers for less than they sell them to Apple. The DoJ believes that this contract has caused publishers to force Amazon to increase the price of their e-books in order to make a profit.
Hundreds of public comments were filed with the DoJ in response to their settlement announcement, which prompted the agency to release the official document. Comments came from book publishers, the Authors Guild, and others, who asked the DoJ to sue Amazon for “abuse of dominant market power,” and “address the issues of online sales tax. The DoJ stated that these issues are beyond the scope of the antitrust action.
The DoJ specifically addressed the Authors Guild’s arguments that Amazon’s pricing hurts publishers, calling the claim a “paternalist view,” and adding that many agents and authors who had submitted comments against the settlement had “taken up the torch” on the Guild’s behalf.
Apple, Penguin and Macmillan will continue their court proceedings with the Department of Justice later this month, as well as a class action lawsuit and various state government lawsuits, which are all seeking tens of millions in damages.