Legal Experts Suggest Justice Department Unlikely to Win Antitrust Suit Against Apple
In the wake of yesterday's announcement that the U.S. Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Apple and a number of book publishers over alleged price fixing, CNET notes that the government may have a hard time winning its case against Apple. The publishers may, however, find themselves on the losing end of the case should they be unwilling to settle.
"It's a harder case against Apple than the publishers," says Geoffrey Manne, who teaches antitrust law at the Lewis and Clark Law School in Oregon and runs the International Center for Law and Economics.
One reason lies in the Justice Department's 36-page complaint, which recounts how publishers met over breakfast in a London hotel and dinners at Manhattan's posh Picholine restaurant, which boasts a "Best of Award of Excellence" from Wine Spectator magazine. The key point is that Apple wasn't present.
But even the case against the publishers is not a sure thing for the Department of Justice. Some experts suggest that even amid claims that the publishers met to discuss a shift to an agency model being championed by Apple, the publishers may not be found guilty of antitrust violations.
Specifically, the Supreme Court has ruled in the past that pricing arrangements among competitors are not automatically considered to be violations of antitrust law, and that the setting of minimum retail pricing by manufacturers is a permitted policy.
Several of the publishers involved in the lawsuit have already settled, but Macmillan and Penguin are holding out along with Apple to fight the case. Almost immediately following the filing of the Department of Justice's lawsuit, a number of states filed their own claims against the companies, citing customer overcharges of over $100 million since the move to an agency model of pricing. Regulators in other countries are also reportedly looking at whether they wish to take action on the matter.