Two US citizens have filed a lawsuit against Apple and several book publishers, accusing them of fixing the prices of e-books to boost profits and force Amazon to abandon its discount pricing.
The lawsuit, which has applied for class-action status, alleges Apple and the publishers colluded to increase prices on popular books, using an agency business model in which publishers set their own e-book prices, rather than the traditional wholesale model in which publishers set a retail price and retailers set their own sales price.
Plaintiffs Anthony Petru and Marcus Mathis claim they purchased at least one e-book title for $9.99, allegedly paying higher prices as a result of the agency model, according to CNet.
They want restitution, the defendants' conduct to be declared a conspiracy and the agency model to be declared illegal.
Lawyers for Anthony Petru and Marcus Mathis say they intend to prove Apple was looking for a way to neutralise Amazon's Kindle e-reader before it could challenge the upcoming introduction of the iPad.
The agency pricing model was introduced in 2010 after book publishers asked Amazon to increase the price of e-books on its website.
Amazon initially resisted, saying $9.99 should be the maximum price, but later relented after many popular titles disappeared from the Amazon site.
Publishers named in the lawsuit as defendants alongside Apple include HarperCollins Publishers, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Group and Simon & Schuster.