The DOJ lawsuit says that Apple and five publishers, three of which have already settled with the DOJ (Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster) engaged in collusion to force a move to the agency model for e-book sales. Prior to this, Amazon.com was the dominant force in e-books, and had enforced a wholesale pricing model.
In addition, the agreement between Apple and the five publishers gave Apple "most favored nation status," meaning that no one would be able to sell e-books at a price lower than Apple's.
The other two publishers who, like Apple, have not agreed to a settlement with the DOJ are Macmillan and Penguin.
"The anti-competitive nature of this conspiracy, and the Publisher Respondents’ motivation to control ebook pricing, is also revealed by the fact that the price of an ebook in many cases now approaches – or even exceeds – the price of the same book in paper even though there are almost no incremental costs to produce each additional ebook unit."
Painchaud said that if any of the three lawsuits is successful, any Canadians who bought e-books since April 1, 2010 would be eligible for damages. And since prices went from Amazon.com's fairly standard $9.99 to $12, $14, or even more, the sums could add up.
However, class action lawsuits take a long time. “It could take two, three or four years easily,” said Painchaud.
Of course, if the DOJ wins its case, which won't take nearly as long, it would accelerate a move toward settlement in the Canadian class action suits.
In addition to the Canadian class action lawsuits, Australia is also examining the same price-fixing charges. Indeed, the issue seems to be increasing in scope, despite Apple's bravado.