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Apple could be sued for ebook price fixing today

Lawsuit accuses Apple and several publishers of working together to raise ebook prices

Apple may be sued for alleged ebook price fixing today. The lawsuit accuses Apple, HarperCollins Publishers, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster of working together to raise ebook prices in response to a discounted pricing strategy from Amazon.com.

The US Justice department and the European Commission are investigating Apple and a number of book publishers who are suspected of pushing up ebook prices.

Reuters is reporting that two people familiar with the matter say that The Justice Department could sue Apple today, while settling with other publishers this week.

Last week the Wall Street Journal claimed that sources said Apple, along with publishers Pearson and Macmillan are not inclined to settle.

The Consumer Federation of America has also chimed in, last week they claimed that Ebook price fixing will cost consumers more than $200 million this year, and asked that the US Department of Justice should take "vigorous action to stop this abusive practice".

In a letter Mark Cooper, director of research for the Consumer Federation of America claimed that the price-setting practices "constitute anticompetitive, anti-consumer collusive" behaviour. He added that: "Collusion between firms to set minimum prices is 'slam dunk' illegal, especially when one of the first effects of the price fixing, after increasing consumer cost, has been to raise publisher profits."

The effect of raising ebook prices from an average of $9.99 (£6.30) to $12.99 (£8.19) or more raises publisher profits, according to Cooper. Ebooks are cheaper to produce and distribute, leading book publishers to increase profits even as revenue is flat, he said.

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