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Apple: E-book price-fixing accusation 'simply not true'

Justice SystemCrime, Law and JusticeBookPricesAntitrust IssuesAmazon.com Inc.Steve Jobs

Apple Inc.  is denying antitrust charges filed against it and five major book publishers this week that accuse the companies of a price-fixing scheme to inflate the prices paid for electronic books.

In a statement to The Times, Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said:

"The DOJ's accusation of collusion against Apple is simply not true. The launch of the iBookstore in 2010 fostered innovation and competition, breaking Amazon's monopolistic grip on the publishing industry."

Neumayr said customers have benefited from e-books that are more interactive and engaging and, "just as we've allowed developers to set prices on the App Store, publishers set prices on the iBookstore."

On Wednesday, federal and state officials filed several antitrust lawsuits against the companies and said former Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs was a key player in the conspiracy to drive up the prices of digital books.

Jobs helped orchestrate a complex price-fixing plan that cost consumers tens of millions of dollars over the last two years by boosting the price of many new releases and bestsellers by $3 to $5 each, federal investigators said. Apple even proudly described the maneuver -- which gave the iPad maker a guaranteed 30% commission on each e-book sold through its online marketplace -- as an "aikido move," referring to the Japanese martial art, according to the lawsuit.

The five publishers -- Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Macmillan and Penguin Group -- have also vehemently denied the allegations.

Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster, however, agreed to a settlement with the Justice Department that would require them to allow retailers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble to reduce the prices of e-books they sell from the publishers. If approved by a federal judge, the settlement will restore competition to the e-book market, federal officials said.

Apple, Macmillan and Penguin did not agree to a settlement. The Justice Department promised that it would pursue the case against them vigorously in an attempt to keep the emerging e-book market "open and competitive."

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