The U.S. Justice Department has said that is now satisfied with Apple’s measures to guard against any repetition of the type of anti-competitive behaviour ruled illegal in the long-running ebooks trial. Bloomberg reports that the department has recommended that the court-appointed monitor is no longer necessary.
In a letter to the Manhattan federal judge who found in 2013 that Apple illegally conspired with publishers to set e-book prices, the U.S. said Apple has “now implemented meaningful antitrust policies, procedures, and training programs that were obviously lacking at the time Apple participated in and facilitated the horizontal price-fixing conspiracy found by this court.”
The letter did, however, note that Apple “never embraced a cooperative working relationship with the monitor” …
Apple denied this, but did agree that the relationship had been “rocky.” Apple had previously complained that it was being overcharged by the lawyer appointed by the court to monitor its compliance with the ebook ruling, after it received a bill for $138,432 for a fortnight’s work by Michael Bromwich.
Apple later called for Bromwich to be removed from the role, stating that he was attempting to extend his remit beyond that specified by the court, and demanding interviews with senior Apple execs who’d had no involvement in any of the ebook negotiations. Apple’s motion was denied.
While this chapter of the ebook saga appears to be at end end, it may not be the end of the story: Apple is appealing the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. Apple’s argument is that it needed to act aggressively in pricing negotiations to break Amazon’s near-monopoly in the ebook market at the time. Some judges from Apple’s previous appeal have expressed sympathy with this view.