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Appeals group upholds Apple e-book settlement

Appeals group upholds Apple e-book settlement

(Reuters) — A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld Apple Inc.'s $450 million settlement of claims that it harmed consumers by conspiring with five publishers to raise e-book prices.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York rejected a challenge by an e-books purchaser to the fairness, reasonableness and adequacy of the settlement, which won approval from U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in November 2014.

Apple had been accused by 33 state attorneys general and consumers of conspiring with publishers to eliminate retail price competition and raise e-book prices in a bid to undercut Inc.'s market dominance.

After Cote found Apple liable for conspiring to raise e-book prices, Apple agreed to settle the litigation, but conditioned the size of any payout on its appeal of the liability finding, which is now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court.

If the liability finding were to be upheld, Apple would pay the $450 million to compensate consumers and cover legal fees.

But Apple would pay just $70 million if a retrial were ordered, and nothing if the liability finding were to be overturned.

In Wednesday's decision, the 2nd Circuit said Cote did not abuse her discretion in approving the settlement.

It cited testimony from an expert witness for the consumers who said the accord, combined with $166 million of earlier settlements with the publishers, could actually provide consumers with more money than they claimed to lose.

The case is In re: Electronic Books Antitrust Litigation, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 14-4649.

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