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Apple, publishers face U.S. antitrust lawsuit over e-book pricing

WASHINGTON -- The Justice Department on Wednesday sued Apple Inc. and five major book publishers for allegedly colluding to fix e-book prices.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, alleges that Apple and the publishers “reached an agreement whereby retail price competition would cease (which all the conspirators desired), retail e-book prices would increase significantly (which the publisher defendants desired) and Apple would be guaranteed a 30% ‘commission’ on each e-book it sold (which Apple desired).”

The agreement helped drive prices up to avoid retail price competition from Amazon, in violation of antitrust laws, the suit said.

“Millions of e-books that would have sold at retail for $9.99 or for other low prices instead sold for ... generally $12.99 or $14.99,” the suit said.

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The lawsuit named Apple, along with Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette and Penguin.

Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and the head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, Sharis Pozen, are expected to announce the suit at a 9 a.m. PDT news conference in Washington along with Connecticut Atty. Gen. George Jepsen.

The Justice Department and Connecticut officials have been investigating e-book pricing by Apple and the publishers.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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