Apple lost a long-running battle with the United States government Monday, as the Supreme Court announced it will not hear the tech giant’s appeal in an e-book price-fixing case that dates back to 2012.
As a quick recap, the Justice Department accused Apple and several major publishers of working together to raise the price of e-books, which the government claimed overcharged readers by millions of dollars.
This was, at least until recently, Apple’s most prominent battle with the U.S. government. Apple has always denied wrongdoing, and said it was trying to provide meaningful competition to Amazon. Apple’s lawyers have argued that Amazon drastically lowered e-book prices and alarmed publishers; Apple was providing an alternative. (Amazon chief executive Jeffrey Bezos is the owner of The Washington Post.) But a judge ruled that Apple harmed consumers with its pricing tactics, and now the company has run out of other options.
Apple will have to pay a total of $450 million as part of a previously agreed-upon settlement, since the Supreme Court has declined to hear its last appeal. Of that amount, $400 million will go to as many as 23 million consumers; the rest will take care of fees and other legal costs.
So what does that mean for you? If you read e-books, it means you’ll probably get a little cash, likely to spend on another e-book.
You may have already gotten a few bucks back from this case. Nearly anyone who’d bought an e-book from one of these publishers – Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers, Holtzbrinck Publishers (a.k.a MacMillan), Penguin Group (USA) Inc and Simon & Schuster – between April 2010 and May 2012 was eligible for a reimbursement when the publishers settled with the plaintiffs and state attorneys general. This came in the form of checks or store credit from e-book sellers including Amazon, Kobo, Sony and Barnes & Noble as a result of this case back in 2013 and 2014.
Anyone who’s received money in the past from the publishers’ settlement should be eligible to receive a bit more as a result of Monday’s development as well, depending on how much you spent on qualifying books, according to the website set up by the class-action lawsuit lawyers and state attorneys general to inform consumers about the settlement. That site says that purchases of popular titles such as New York Times bestsellers, should net consumers a little more than $6 per book. Non-bestsellers will probably account for no more than $1.50 per title.
That brings the total amount of money paid out to consumers as a result of this case to $566 million, according to a statement from the Justice Department. Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
If there is anything left from the consumer part of the settlement, the remaining money will go to a charity that promotes literacy and access to e-books. The case’s website specifically mentions Reading is Fundamental as a possible recipient.