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Consumer e-book suit against Apple, publishers gets go-ahead

Judge nixes request from Apple, publishers to dismiss class action lawsuit alleging collusion to reduce retail competition.

Apple and five big publishers are still on the hook to battle allegations of price fixing after a U.S. district court judge rejected their bid to dismiss a consumer lawsuit accusing them of colluding to maintain artificially high e-book prices.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice announced settlements with three publishers: Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group, and Harper Collins. Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin intend to fight the allegations in court. (Disclosure: Simon & Schuster is owned by CNET's parent company, CBS.)

Filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the consumers' suit alleges that Apple acted as the ringleader of a coordinated attempt by the five publishers to push prices higher on e-books. Judge Denise Cote refused to throw out the lawsuit.

"It is presumed that the conduct by all parties would be unlawful under the rule of reason," Cote said today in a written ruling, quoted by Reuters.

The government's separate complaint stems from 2010 meetings between Apple and several of the book industry's biggest publishers when they agreed to set their own prices on the electronic books that were carried on Apple's iPad. The government contends that that arrangement amounted to price fixing as prices since consumers subsequently paid more to buy e-books. Apple has denied the allegations.