Trial To Start In Apple Price-Fixing Dispute

Apple appears in court Monday to face civil accusations by the Justice Department that it illegally conspired to fix e-book prices with other publishers. The government last year accused Apple of conspiring with five major publishers to raise prices for electronic books — something the government says has cost consumers many millions of dollars.

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And Apple faces off with the Justice Department beginning today in a federal court over a price-fixing dispute. Last year, the government accused Apple of conspiring with five major publishing companies to raise prices on electronic books.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: The government says that Apple wanted to get into the eBook business, but it was concerned that its rival Amazon was pricing eBooks too low, cutting into potential profits. So in 2009, Apple met with major publishers and allegedly persuaded them to adopt a different pricing model. The publishers also renegotiated their contracts with Amazon, driving up its prices. Apple has refused to settle the case and CEO Tim Cook last week called the allegations bizarre.

TIM COOK: We've done nothing wrong there and so we're taking a very principled position on this. We were asked to sign something that says we did do something and we're not going to sign something that says we did something we didn't do. And so we're going to fight.

The trial which gets under way in New York City today is expected to feature testimony from executives at the publishing companies, all of whom have settled with the government. The late Apple founder Steve Jobs will also be heard from, in a way. In his authorized biography, Jobs talked about the negotiations with publishers. He's quoted as saying, "yes, the customer pays a little more, but that's what you want anyway."

ZARROLI: Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

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