A class action lawsuit has been filed in British Columbia that accuses Apple Inc. and others of fixing prices on e-books, mirroring an anti-trust suit filed against Apple in the United States earlier this month.
A claim on behalf of Wayne Van Tassel, a Victoria lawyer, has been filed in the B.C. Supreme Court alleging that Apple and several book publishers conspired to artificially raise prices for e-books.
The statement of claim says Tassel and others involved in the suit suffered damages as a result of “unlawful and anti-competitive conduct” on the part of Apple and the publishers, which had the effect of “raising, maintaining and stabilizing” the price of e-books at artificially high rates.
The claim alleges former Apple CEO Steve Jobs attempted to control prices to secure a competitive market for the iPad, and make it a viable contender as an e-reader before its release in 2010.
If the class action is successfully certified, any B.C. resident who bought an e-book from one of the accused publishers after April 1, 2010, is automatically covered.
The publishers named in the suit are MacMillan Publishers, Hatchette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Penguin Group, Simon & Schuster, and their Canadian subsidiaries.
If the suit leads to a settlement, anyone who wishes to claim compensation can register with Vancouver-based law firm Branch MacMaster LLP, which is handling the case.
Earlier this month, Apple was also hit with an anti-trust suit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The suit claims that Apple and several U.S. publishers had “restrained competition” in the sale of e-books by colluding to control prices.
The DOJ alleges that Apple and the publishers had schemed to challenge Amazon.com’s practice of selling e-books through the “wholesale model” for as little as $9.99 by switching to an “agency model” where the publishers set the prices.
The two major book publishers named in the suit are Macmillan and Penguin Group.
Though the allegations have not been proven in court, three other publishers that were investigated—Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and HarperCollins—have agreed to a settlement.
Apple has said the claims are simply “not true.”
In response to the news that the Department of Justice had filed an anti-trust suit against Apple and the publishers, e-book market leader Amazon released a statement saying: “This is a big win for Kindle owners, and we look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books.”
In April, Apple became the world’s most valuable company when its shares reached a high of $644 billion.