The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] reached a settlement [press release] on Tuesday with book publisher Penguin Group, Inc. [corporate website] regarding an alleged conspiracy to raise the prices of e-books. The DOJ's antitrust division filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; JURIST report] in April accusing Penguin Group, as well as several other publishers, of conspiring with Apple, Inc. to force e-book prices above the $9.99 charged by Amazon.com, Inc. [corporate websites]. In the press release, the DOJ declared that the settlement will impose the following penalties on Penguin Group:
Penguin will terminate its agreements with Apple and other e-books retailers and will be prohibited for two years from entering into new agreements that constrain retailers' ability to offer discounts or other promotions to consumers to encourage the sale of the Penguin's e-books. The proposed settlement agreement also will impose a strong antitrust compliance program on Penguin, which will include a requirement that it provide advance notification to the department of any e-book ventures it plans to undertake jointly with other publishers and that it regularly report to the department on any communications it has with other publishers.The settlement is awaiting approval from the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website].
The DOJ lawsuit against Penguin Group, Apple and several other publishers is similar to a class action lawsuit [JURIST report] filed in August in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website]. The lawsuit claims that Apple's conduct constitutes violations of federal and state antitrust laws, including the Sherman Act, the Cartwright Act and the Unfair Competition Act [texts]. The European Commission for Competition [official website] announced in December that it will investigate Apple for anti-competitive practices [JURIST report] in connection with its dealings with several publishers.