DOJ Case Against Apple in E-Book Price Fixing Suit Weakened by Google Exec Testimony
The U.S. Department of Justice recently called a Google director to testify against Apple in its antitrust case over e-book price fixing but the move ultimately proved to be unhelpful at best as the executive buckled under questioning. The Justice Department looked to Google’s director of strategic partnerships Thomas Turvey, who previously stated in written testimony that publishers had told him Apple was the reason they were switching to agency model pricing according to The Verge
The Cupertino California company is being accused of conspiring to fix e-book prices with the help of five major book publishers by using what is known in the business as an agency model, which allows content owners to set pricing under a most favored nations clause. The clause precludes them from selling said content to other retailers for lower prices. This supposed collusion prevented other book resellers to compete, including market leader Amazon according to the DOJ. To show how MFN negatively impacted the e-book landscape, the DOJ turned to Turvey who claimed to have evidence suggesting that Apple forced the publishing houses to move to the agency model.
Once on the stand, the validity of Turvey’s story was immediately questioned by Apple lawyer Orin Snyder, who slowly ended up chipping away at the Google executive’s filed statement. In his written testimony, Turvey claimed that representatives of some of the publishers involved told him directly in 2010 that they were switching to agency because Apple required such compliance in its iBookstore contracts. It came out in court however, that Turvey had drafted the statement with his lawyers, and the executive was unsure who exactly wrote the crucial allegations.
As the proceeding continued, Turvey’s testimony became increasingly unreliable as he wasn’t able to remember the names of any publishing representatives alluded to in the document. The executive also acknowledged that the publishers’ switch to the agency model affected Google’s business dealings but failed to remember details of reported meetings regarding the matter.
According to The Verge
, at the end of Turvey’s interview, he had gone from saying publishing executives spoke with him directly, to conceding they “likely” told someone on his team about Apple’s purportedly aggressive tactics.
The Justice Department’s antitrust will continue with additional testimony from Turvey and is scheduled to run for the next two weeks. We’ll have to see how the case unfolds.
Source: The Verge