* Apple says strategy aids competition, helps consumers
* US alleges collusion cost consumers millions of dollars
* Apple says Steve Jobs comment on pricing mischaracterized
* Three of five publishers have settled antitrust case
By Jonathan Stempel
May 23 Apple Inc is rejecting charges
that it conspired to fix prices of electronic books, calling the
U.S. government's antitrust lawsuit a "fundamentally flawed"
endeavor that could discourage competition and harm consumers.
In a filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan late
Tuesday, Apple said it has not conspired with anyone or fixed
prices for e-books in an effort to thwart Amazon.com Inc's
dominance of that fast-growing market.
The Justice Department accused Apple in April of colluding
with five publishers to boost e-book prices in early 2010, as
the Silicon Valley giant was launching its popular iPad tablet.
Amazon, which makes the Kindle e-reader, had long sold
e-books for as little as $9.99. The government complaint quoted
Apple's late co-founder Steve Jobs as wanting to offer
publishers a means to boost prices, and "create a real
mainstream e-books market at $12.99 and $14.99."
But Apple argued that its foray into e-books has actually
fueled demand for e-books by forcing Amazon and rivals,
including Barnes & Noble Inc, to compete more
aggressively, including by upgrading e-reader technology.
"Apple's entry into e-book distribution is classic
procompetitive conduct" that created competition where none
existed, Apple said in its court papers.
"For Apple to be subject to hindsight legal attack for a
business strategy well-recognized as perfectly proper sends the
wrong message to the market," it added. "The government's
complaint against Apple is fundamentally flawed as a matter of
fact and law."
Apple also denied that the government "accurately
characterized" the comment attributed to Jobs.
A Justice Department spokeswoman referred a request for
comment to the announcement of the April 11 lawsuit, when
Attorney General Eric Holder said the alleged collusion cost
consumers millions of dollars on the most popular e-book titles.
The publishers Macmillan and Penguin Group, which are
respectively units of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH
and Pearson Plc, are fighting the antitrust case.
News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers, CBS Corp's
Simon & Schuster and Lagardere SCA's Hachette
Book Group settled the case.
The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc et al, U.S. District Court,
Southern District of New York, No. 12-02826.