Judge approves Apple's $450 million e-book settlement

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U.S. District Court Judge Denise Cote on Friday accepted Apple's $450 million proposal to settle a class action lawsuit regarding e-book price fixing leveled by 33 states and territories.

According to in-court reports from Reuters, Judge Cote characterized the agreement as "unusual" prior to accepting the settlement terms that will see Apple pay out $400 to a class of consumers as well as citizens of 33 U.S. states and territories represented by state attorneys general. The final tally could come out to as many as 23 million iBooks users.

Apple has been awaiting Judge Cote's ruling since July, when all parties agreed to the $450 million sum. The class initially aimed for an $840 million payout.

The settlement is contingent on Apple's appeal of a ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York that found the company culpable of colluding with five major book publishers to falsely inflate e-book prices in the iBookstore. The same court, run by Judge Cote, is currently overseeing class-action suit proceedings. Depending on the outcome, consumers may only recoup $50 million and lawyers $20 million — or nothing if Apple goes back to trial and is found not guilty of breaking antitrust laws — as stated in the settlement's terms.

During today's hearing, Judge Cote called the agreement an "unusually structured settlement, especially for one arrived at on the eve of trial." However, the jurist did understand why plaintiffs agreed to the deal, citing Apple's use of legal tactics meant to delay proceedings, the publication reports.

Apple was first investigated, then sued, by the U.S. Department of Justice for employing so-called "agency model" pricing, which operates on a "most favored nations" basis that restricts content owners from selling the same product to a another retailer at a lower price. The system countered e-book sector leader Amazon's "wholesale model" that allows retailers to buy content in bulk and set resale prices at or below cost.

After Judge Cote found Apple guilty of collusion, the company was slapped with an injunction that bars it from entering into similar deals with content owners.