Mass. AG Martha Coakley alleges Apple Inc. conspired with publishers to price-fix e-books

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley said Friday she is joining her counterparts in 32 other states in alleging that technology giant Apple Inc. engaged in the price-fixing of e-books with publishers Penguin Group and Macmillan.

“We allege that through their actions, the defendants and their co-conspirators collected more than $100 million worth of overcharges from consumers across the country,” Coakley said in a statement.

Attempts to reach Apple and Macmillan were not immediately successful. Apple and Penguin have denied similar allegations in the past.

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According to Coakley, Apple and the publishers violated both Massachusetts law and the federal Sherman Antitrust Act.

Many of the states that Coakley is now working with filed a complaint against Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan in April. The US Department of Justice has made similar allegations against the three companies.

A Penguin spokeswoman said that a statement issued last month by Penguin chairman and chief executive John Makinson also applies to Coakley’s allegations.

“We have done nothing wrong,” Makinson said then. “The decisions that we took, many them of them costly and difficult, were taken by Penguin alone.”

In a mid-April story by the Associated Press, Apple said that the accusation that it conspired with major book publishers to raise the price of e-books is untrue. An Apple spokesman told the AP that Apple had fostered innovation and competition by introducing its iBookstore in 2010. Apple’s entry into the e-book marketplace has broken “Amazon’s monopolistic grip on the publishing industry,” the Apple spokesman said.

Other states that have joined in making allegations against Apple include Texas, Connecticut, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont, Coakley’s office said.