back to article Our irony meter exploded: Apple moans ebook price-fixing watchdog is too EXPENSIVE

Apple has filed a court motion complaining that Michael Bromwich, the court-appointed antitrust regulator overseeing the fruity firm in the wake of its ebook price-fixing shenanigans, is too charging too much for his services. "Mr Bromwich appears to be simply taking advantage of the fact that there is no competition here or, …

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  1. Andrew Tyler 1

    Ouch

    The irony is so lovely.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ouch

      At $1100 per hour, he could almost afford to be an Apple customer.

      1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

        Re: Ouch

        Perhaps Apple is angling to have another handful of sand thrown in the vaseline.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ouch

        " In his first two weeks in the job, Bromwich has invoiced Apple for $138,432 for his services, including a 15 per cent surcharge because he's assigned the role to his consultancy business"

        Alledgedly charge almost $70,000 a week and a allegedly a 15% surcharge as (it would seem - allegedly) rather than do the job direct via the law firm he works for - re-assign it to his consultancy business he also allegedly works for and charge 15% more - allegedly?

    2. BillG
      Happy

      Re: Ouch

      The irony is so lovely

      Remember, irony is hypocrisy done with style.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ouch

      I don't get it

  2. banjomike
    FAIL

    seems slippery at best...

    from a company that prides itself on not paying taxes. Hypocrites.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Paris Hilton

      Re: seems slippery at best...

      What has that to do with the tribute to the guy with guns & badges?

  3. NoneSuch Silver badge

    If I could charge $1100 an hour then slag the work off to a consultant and have others pay that bill, I'd be out of the blooming country as well.

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      The way I red it, he's assigning the work to himself, in his other role as a consultant, for an additional 15% fee, something that would be a clear conflict of interest if not for the fact that attorneys, as officers of the court are defined to be incapable of having a conflict of interest, or so I understood in a slightly different context a number of years ago.

      Hard to feel sorry for Apple, though.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Monopoly Power

    Well, Apple is arguably a monopoly in the business of content distribution services; a new industry which needs Government review, oversight, and supplier protections.

    Purchase of an iDevice feeds into Apple's content distribution services. It's a walled garden approach. If Apple doesn't like your content, they can prevent distribution. Also, with ~20% of the purchase price of software, content, or musical works sale going to Apple (regardless of production or wholesale price), Apple controls the market.

    It's a Schrodinger's Cat thought experiment; but the only way others can compete against Apple's distribution services, and walled-garden approach, to prevent further growth of their marketplace monopoly power... is ultimately... to avoid purchase of their products.

    1. This post has been deleted by a moderator

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hear of Amazon?

        "Well, Apple is arguably a monopoly in the business of content distribution services"

        "Ever hear of Amazon?"

        Ever hear of iTunes?

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Hear of Amazon?

          Ever hear of iTunes?

          Actually no because f*ck that sh*t.

          And I do vervently hope any of the idiots who complain about Apple rogering them while they are "forced" to buy their stuff, the whole Apple leadership, the overpaid "antitrust" legal fatcat and his aides, as well as the price-fixing book publisher leadership all get uncurable but ultimately fatal STDs.

        2. Robert Grant

          Re: Hear of Amazon?

          Ever heard of television?

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Hear of Amazon?

          @AC 29-11-2013 20:16

          "Ever hear of iTunes?"

          Wow, you really are as dumb as a bag of bricks!

          - So someone claims Apple have a monopoly in content distribution services (we have to infer that the person making this claim is referring to their iTunes service - you know, the way Apple distributes content).

          - Someone makes a counter claim using the example of a competing content distribution service (Amazon) to show that Apple don't have a monopoly on content distribution services.

          - You use iTunes as an example of how Apple have a monopoly on content distribution services (failing to make any inroads into the argument that the fact there are multiple content distribution services blows the claims of a monopoly out of the water).

          To summarize:

          Post 1: "iTunes is a monopoly"

          Post 2: "No it's not, ever heard of Amazon"

          You: "Ever heard of iTunes"

          Everyone else reading this thinks "Yes, we've all heard of iTunes. In the first post, idiot."

          You need to read this, hang your head in shame and then sterilize yourself before you procreate, for the good of humanity; you mouth breathing oxygen thief.

          1. Chet Mannly

            Re: Hear of Amazon?

            "Ever hear of iTunes?" Wow, you really are as dumb as a bag of bricks!"

            Apple managed to increase the pricing of ebooks for the entire market. There is no arguing that that is exercising significant market power which is the issue - you're missing the point by saying that there are other people in the market so Apple isn't controlling it.

            By that line of argument Microsoft wasn't a monopoly either, even though they had massive market power and were using it to eliminate competitors to the detriment of consumers - and got done for it (sadly too late in the end).

            1. RegGuy1

              Re: Hear of Amazon?

              Well I don't give a shit. I *refuse* to buy an ebook.

              Now if I can download a PDF for free I will. But if you want me to pay, and then find it has a DRM turd wrapped round it -- no thanks. I'll keep my money in my bank account thank you very much (until, of course RBS chooses to steal it).

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Hear of Amazon?

              @Chet Mannly

              You should read my post again. I'm not saying anything except that the guys' debating methodology is complete balls. I only restated what the participants on each side said - I made no statements of my own position on the subject under discussion.

              Although perhaps you should look up the definition of a monopoly - significant control of a market does not necessarily mean a monopoly exists. Apple's actions could more correctly be defined as bloody good negotiation skills rather than abuse of a monopoly position - the creation of a cartel in fact which, whilst it may have the same effects on the market as a monopoly, is not actually a monopoly.

      2. tom dial Silver badge

        Re: Monopoly Power

        They are a monopoly (perfectly legal) in respect of the iStore, and used that as an inducement to the five publishers to engage in illegal price fixing for their mutual benefit.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Re: Monopoly Power

      When it comes to books, the whole subject of this case, the walled garden has several wide open archways leading in. Nothing stops you opening any ePub book in iBooks, or using one of the multiple other ebook reader apps, including Kindle.

      1. VernonDozier

        Re: Monopoly Power

        Perhaps read up on the last major US anti-trust case, with Microsoft, Internet explorer, and Netscape.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Monopoly Power

          "Perhaps read up on the last major US anti-trust case, with Microsoft, Internet explorer, and Netscape."

          W T F!

          Erm, it's 2013! I know you may not realise based on your last decade phone, but a little more relevance would be nice?

          1. Scott 1

            Re: Monopoly Power

            True, but considering that U.S. Judges consider "precedent" set as far back as the late 1700s in their rulings (and sometimes precedent set during the Roman empire), I would say that it's both relatively *very* recent and quite relevant.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Monopoly Power

      So you can't upload videos or music purchased elsewhere? of course you can.

  5. Cliff

    Really hard to take sides

    Abusive lawyer vs Apple, hard to pick who I'd rather lose.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really hard to take sides

      I'd take the side of Apple.

      Apple likely hired Al Gore as a business director to oversee issues such as this; and manage Political Process; and ensure the Apple Core Team remains coated with teflon.

      You saw how Al Gore assisted with this; when there was an inquiry related to backdated stock options... correct?

    2. James 36

      Re: Really hard to take sides

      well hopefully neither side will lose , or win, and be locked in a long and bitter dispute that just drains the resources of both sides,

      kind of like Kramer vs kramer only more tedious and no-one really gives a f**k

      the only downside being different lawyers win through fees.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ooh bitter

    If I could write what I really want to write (albeit language my mum would never use) I'm sure I'd get banned so all I have to say is;

    How you like them apples, Apple?

  7. Mitoo Bobsworth
    Happy

    "...billing structure seems slippery at best..."

    Sounds like they're perfect for each other, then.

  8. Captain DaFt

    Well punishment is supposed to sting, isn't it?

    That said, the lawyer does seem to be gouging a bit deep.

  9. VinceH

    Dear Apple: You're sucking it up wrong.

  10. Simon Lynch
    FAIL

    Money-go-round

    I would imagine the lawyers is out of the country setting up an offshore shell to stash the cash in - Apple will then be able to make the transfers direct from one of their tax-free shells and they can then save a few bob.

    The American system of making the infringing party pay for their oversight, does have some natural justice embedded in it. Just need to make the lawyer pay for their own oversight and everything will be alright then... Obviously you would think governments are there do to the 'regulation' thing, not over-priced lawyers. Then again, even at €16m a go this would probably be cheaper than the same job in the EU.

  11. All names Taken
    Joke

    Is the wage cost a tax write off?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Yes, but just to be pedantic these aren't wages since the guy isn't employed by Apple.

      That reduces the cost by the marginal tax rate Apple is paying in the US (39.6%) but charging $1,100/hr is still pretty ridiculous if it is the most Apple has ever paid for a lawyer. For a company involved in so many lawsuits, you'd think if anyone knew what top billing rates were, it'd be Apple.

      The guy seems to be abusing his position knowing Apple isn't able to shop around. Must be nice to have a court-appointed monopoly!

      1. NogginTheNog

        Re. Apple knows lawyer rates

        Given the amount of work they must get it may be that Apple's own lawyers give a hefty discount?!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No Worries

    A few less TV ads will make up for the " iLoss".

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Did Apple make a sworn statement that they had never paid that much for a lawyer?

  14. Bladeforce

    iDid iThey iEven

    iConsider iHow iHypocritical iThey iSound i?

    1. Chika

      Re: iDid iThey iEven

      iSee

  15. John Tserkezis

    Expensive, locked in, conservative services...

    Apple knows all about that...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get it right up them

    No sympathy and I hope he takes them for every penny he can get.

    Apple ripped off tens of millions of people who had no connection with Apple products or services so they can go fuck themselves. Should slap another $100mill fine on them for being whinging racketeers.

  17. sleepy

    The weird thing is that books are all different. For each title, there is only one publisher, so there's no real possibility of competition driving the price down; there are no other suppliers. Fore books it's arguable that the author or publisher should set the end user price, and the distributor (Apple or Amazon) should charge the author/publisher a distribution fee. Apple likes this, because price is no longer a factor in the buying decision. Amazon doesn't like it, because they are establishing a monopoly by selling below cost.

    There does seem to be some validity to Apple's complaint that the way this has been done means the judge has set herself up as Apple's litigation adversary, with no possibility of legal representation for Apple, when the supervision should have been independent, with reports back to the judge open to Apple to inspect and respond to. That would leave the judge as impartial judge, with legal representation available to Apple.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The real issue?

    Is that he is being paid to do a job but then because he doesn't have the appropriate knowledge or experience is then outsourcing the legal work to another firm of lawyers, for which he charges 15% admin fee for their services. If Apple are forking out US$1100 an hour I imagine they'd expect the person they are paying to know what they are doing.

    There is also no budget, so it could go on for a very long time.

    I'd say the real flaw is that any system allows for such a situation to take place.

    Perhaps the actual solution to this is to ensure that any future agreements Apple makes with publishers are subject to external legal review. Or would that not bring quite as much money into the system?

    1. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

      Re: The real issue?

      I'd say the real flaw is that any system allows for such a situation to take place.

      It does seem bizarre. The court seems to have effectively granted the regulator an open-ended license to take as much money as he wants. While Apple may have agreed to being placed under regulator control as part of the settlement I doubt that is what they expected or foresaw.

      I don't have any sympathy for Apple over their guilty behaviour but this does not appear to be reasonable.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    WTF ?

    Pot.... Kettle...... Black !

    1. Chika
      Trollface

      Re: WTF ?

      Chances are, however, that they wouldn't use the words "Pot" or "Kettle" but something silly like "iWater" and deliver it in a glossy white finish.

  20. PJL500

    At $1,100.00 per hour I'd be out of the country a lot of the time too.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    taking advantage of the fact that there is no competition here

    I didn't realize Apple-people would ever display such remarkable sense of humour, given the (wider) context. Humour, yes, as I can't imagine them being so stupid to overlook the irony. Very good, Apple, very good indeed.

  22. Woza
    Go

    New product

    the iRony, from Apple. Coming this Christmas to a store near you!

    1. ecofeco Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: New product

      Well played sir!

  23. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

    A major procedural lapse?

    Not being an expert on American (or other) law, I'll stick my neck out and try to apply some common sense to the situation (I know, I know...). The guy is appointed by the court to regulate/watch over Apple's practices - fine. He is not an Apple employee - fine. However, Apple are supposed to pay his fee and expenses as a part of the adjudicated remedy - fine.

    What is not fine is a) why the fee and maximal expenses are not a part of the judgement; b) why the appointed lawyer is allowed to subcontract the task wholesale to another party, even if it is his own consulting practice (if it were his consulting practice that was appointed to do the job I assume even Apple wouldn't make an issue, so I assume the appointee was a different legal entity). I would expect that if a court appoints X a regulator these two terms should be an explicit part of the ruling. Seems like a major procedural lapse.

    Unless the omission is intentional and stems from a surprisingly developed sense of irony on the part of the court... Hmm...

  24. PiEye

    1 - A lawyer not qualified on antitrust matters appointed to oversee antitrust matters?

    2 - A matter related to price fixing is subjected to monopolistic pricing terms imposed by a bureaucrat abusing his power?

    ... is this the Soviet Union or the United States?

    1. oldcoder

      Is there a significant difference?

      Other than the weather, that is.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Beat me to it, oldcoder.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    am i missing something

    1. court appoints lawyer from law firm at an outrageously/criminally high hourly rate.

    2. lawyer outsources work to his side company (which btw should result in him getting a kicking, legally speaking of course)

    3. side company outsources actual work to others, presumably at a lesser rate, but still charged on

    So the lawyer is being paid to do absolutely nothing?

    When did he stand for Parliament?

    having said that, couldn't happen to nicer people ;-)

  26. Marketing Hack Silver badge
    Happy

    When lawyers battle lawyers...

    Only the lawyers win! (Hard to feel sorry for Apple, given their attempt to screw the rest of us)

  27. Winkypop Silver badge
    Trollface

    Imagine that

    Paying over the odds for a service/device one can get elsewhere!

    How awful.

  28. Mr. Peterson
    Mushroom

    Shakespeare was wrong

    first, we kill all the judges

    1. Dan Paul

      Re: Shakespeare was wrong

      No, Shakespeare was correct. If you kill all the lawyers, this will also include the subset of Judges who are almost always Lawyers. If they are NOT Lawyers then we need to keep those judges for a while as they probably have some form of common sense and intelligence.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How Do You like Those Apples ?

    Apple being ripped off, instead of ripping off customer, suck it up you muppets !

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not like Apple surely

    If he was like Apple there would have been a non disclosure agreement prior to his starting work that says they can't talk about his pricing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Not like Apple surely

      Well said, have an upvote!

  31. ecofeco Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    OUCH!

    He must be doing a good job based on the "pain-to-complain" index.

    Yeah. Irony. In spades. Lovin' it.

    Apple would do well to remember that in China, where out of control capitalism is not thought of as a god given right and CEOs are not rock gods, they just execute errant corporate executives.

  32. kmac499

    Mummy Mummy...

    " Uncle Judge took all my sweets away.. Then he's made his nephew make sure I don't eat too many by checking my pockets without my friends there to hide my sweets with, and I have to pay him in sweeties as well and It's just SO UNFAIR..."

    Sweeet,,,,

  33. Squander Two

    You live and learn.

    Turns out two wrongs do make a right.

  34. EPurpl3

    Waaahahaha, this article made my day.

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