US Supreme Court rejects Apple’s ebook appeal

The company was found to have conspired with publishers to fix the price of ebooks...

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A man walks into one of Apple's authorised premium resellers' outlets in Singapore | Image: Wong Maye-E / AP/Press Association Images

Apple will be forced to pay consumers $400 million and cover a further $50 million in legal fees after the US Supreme Court rejected its appeal to overturn a ruling that could prove more damaging to its reputation than its pocket.

The Supreme Court confirmed in a Monday morning order that it would not hear an appeal of the case which found that Apple had engaged in price-fixing, bringing to an end a long-running saga.

The case arose in 2010 when late Apple CEO Steve Jobs convinced five major publishers to sell ebooks on the iPod, coming into direct competition with Amazon.

The publishers’ decision to move to an “agency pricing” model to set prices and deliver a commission to Apple was considered an antitrust conspiracy by the US Justice Department, who alleged that it amounted to horizontal price-fixing and sued the companies in federal court.

Despite the publishing houses quickly settling the case, Apple fought the charges. US District Judge Denise Cote eventually found in 2013 that Apple had violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

Class action lawsuits followed, with Apple agreeing to the $450 million payout, depending on the outcome of its appeals. It is an amount that is little more than half the sales Apple earns every day, so any damage will be more to brand reputation than the balance sheet.

The decision comes after a bad weekend for the company, as Apple users were targeted by hackers in the first ever ransomware attack on Macs.