Apple could refund as much as $400m in digital book settlement

Apple will refund up to $400 million to consumers ensnared in a plot to raise the prices of digital books unless a court overturns a decision affirming its pivotal role in the collusion.

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The settlement bill emerged in a court filing made a month after attorneys suing Apple said an agreement had been reached to avoid a trial over the issue.

Lawsuits filed on behalf of digital book buyers had originally been seeking damages of up to $840 million after a judge ruled in a separate trial last year that Apple had violated US antitrust law by orchestrating a price-fixing scheme with five major publishers of electronic books.

The decision sided with the US Justice Department’s contention that Apple’s late CEO, Steve Jobs, had schemed with major e-book publishers to charge higher prices in response to steep discounts offered by Amazon.com. Jobs, who died in October 2011, negotiated the deals as Apple was preparing to release the first iPad in 2010.

Apple is appealing last year’s decision and the California company won’t have to pay the $400 million settlement if it prevails. If the appeals court voids the verdict and returns the case for further review, Apple would still have to refund $50 million to consumers.

No money will be owed if the appeals court concludes that Apple didn’t break any antitrust laws.

“Apple did not conspire to fix e-book pricing, and we will continue to fight those allegations on appeal,” the company said in a statement. “We did nothing wrong and we believe a fair assessment of the facts will show it.”

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