Found guilty of instigating and then leading a conspiracy to artificially raise the price of ebooks in an action that harmed both competitors and consumers, Apple this past week was ordered to change its behavior. US District Judge Denise Cote ordered Apple to change the way it deals with publishers and assigned an external monitor to ensure that the belligerent firm complies with a ruling that it has refused to acknowledge as correct.
"The court's ruling reinforces the victory the department has won for consumers," Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer said on Friday. "Consumers will continue to benefit from lower ebook prices as a result of the department's enforcement action to restore competition in this important industry."
Although the guilty verdict is indeed a victory for both the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and consumers—the latter of which can look forward to future refunds from purchases made during Apple's pricing reign of terror—the recent order by Judge Cote falls short of the remedies requested by the DOJ, which wanted more sweeping monitoring of related Apple businesses such as music and apps (where Apple is no doubt harming competition as well).
But Cote, who is convinced that Apple wishes to continue breaking the law by colluding further with publishers, has restricted the compliance to the business at hand: ebooks. She has ordered the firm to eliminate the price-fixing clauses in its contracts with publishers. It can no longer make agreements with two or more publishers at the same time. And it must allow an external monitor to assess Apple's compliance with the order for two years.
Apple continues its belligerent stance.
"Apple did not conspire to fix ebook pricing," an Apple spokesperson claimed, which is an interesting position to take when you consider that Apple both instigated and conspired to fix ebook pricing. "The iBookstore gave customers more choice and injected much needed innovation and competition into the market. Apple will pursue an appeal of the injunction."
This kind of commentary explains why Judge Cote ordered a monitor to oversee the firm, which has learned nothing from its legal drubbing. "Apple has demonstrated a blatant and aggressive disregard" for the law and the ruling," she said in a recent courtroom appearance. "It has not taken advantage of opportunities ... to make reforms and change its culture."