The U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation into alleged ebook price fixing by Apple and several major book publishers is apparently headed to court. The DOJ has plans to file a lawsuit against Apple as early as Wednesday, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
While the lawsuit could land as early as today, a final decision as to when the DOJ will take action hasn’t been decided yet, according to sources speaking with Reuters.
The DOJ has been investigating Apple, Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Penguin, Hachette Livre and Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holzbrinck to determine whether or not the companies colluded to artificially raise the price of ebooks by forcing the adoption of the agency model for book sales. The change gave publishers instead of resellers control over book prices, and was met with resistance from companies such as Amazon.com.
After adopting the agency model for Apple’s iBookstore, publishers were able to force the same pricing model onto other ebook resellers including Amazon.com. Previously, Amazon sold many ebooks below cost, undercutting its competition and upsetting publishers in the process.
The DOJ warned Apple in early March that a lawsuit was a real possibility, which was likely a move to help push negotiations for a settlement outside of court. Apple, Penguin and MacMillin, however, refused to negotiate, and as a result may have to appear in court should the DOJ follow through and file its lawsuits.
DOJ representatives haven’t confirmed if, or when, it will start filing lawsuits. Apple, as well as the book publishers included in the investigation, haven’t commented, either.