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Apple Reportedly Settles Ebook Price-Fixing Lawsuit Claims

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Apple (AAPL - Get Report) has reportedly avoided a new trial by agreeing to an out-of-court settlement ending a long-running, class-action lawsuit alleging the company conspired with publishers to raise the price of ebooks. Terms of the settlement which still need court approval and were not immediately made public.

US District Court Judge Denise Cote has ordered all parties to submit all settlement filings by July 16.

Attorney for the plaintiffs, Steve Berman, has asked the court to consider triple damages as much as $840 million or three times the estimate of what Apple gained by the alleged collusion. Recovered funds would be returned to e-book buyers.

James McQuivey, Vice President at Forrester Research believes Apple's decision to settle was the practical move. "Apple wanted to give this one up and move on," McQuivey said in an interview. "The e-book business never really took off for the company. So, instead of standing on principle Apple will now concentrate on its newer initiatives such as it's recently announced smart home automation/control system."

The settlement is a result of a 2012 US Justice Department suit which sued Apple and five publishers. 33 states joined the Department of Justice suit and initiated separate legal actions plus a number of individual consumers have banded together to file a class-action suit of their own. Apple is appealing the decision.

Hachette, News Corp's HarperCollins (NWSA), Penguin, Macmillan (MMS) and CBS' Simon & Schuster (CBS) have already agreed to pay more than $165 million to settle related antitrust charges. Apple argued that it had no knowledge of the publishers' consipracy.

In 2013, Judge Cote ruled Apple was guilty of teaming with those publishers to keep prices higher than what Amazon (AMZN) had wanted to charge for its Kindle ebooks. A trial to determine damages has been set to begin July 14.

Apple has not yet responded to a request for comment.

-- Written by Gary Krakow in New York.

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Gary Krakow is TheStreet's Senior Technology Correspondent.

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