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Ebook price-fix saga: Official Apple peeler says probe is fruitless

Big shock: iTunes giant not letting antitrust court monitor into meetings, files, etc

A US court-appointed watchdog tasked with ensuring Apple sticks to its e-book price-fixing settlement promises says the iThing giant is not playing ball.

In a report [PDF] submitted to the New York Southern District Court, external compliance monitor Michael Bromwich claims Apple has not cooperated with his efforts to examine its policies and training programs to prevent future antitrust violations.

"Despite the progress we have made since October, we have also experienced significant setbacks," Bromwich wrote in the report, which covers the six months to the end of February.

"Apple’s cooperation diminished substantially toward the end of the reporting period, and some of our longstanding requests for information remain in dispute."

Part of Apple's 2013 settlement in the antitrust case was the appointment of an external monitor to make sure the Cupertino idiot-tax operation is not breaking antitrust laws in its pricing deals with book publishers.

The settlement calls for Bromwich to scrutinize Apple's internal policies, documents, and employee training programs to make sure the California biz is steering clear of the pricing deals that broke competition laws. During the past three months, Bromwich claims, Apple has turned down requests to observe training sessions, and declined his requests to interview staff.

Bromwich and Apple have been at odds since the early days of his appointment as compliance monitor. Moneybags Apple complained that Bromwich is charging excessive fees for his services, and overstepping his bounds in examining proceedings at Apple HQ in Cupertino.

Even with the conflict and complaints from both sides, Bromwich conceded that Apple is making progress in getting on the right side of America's antitrust laws.

"In spite of these significant difficulties," he wrote, "our assessment is that Apple has made progress in developing a program that is comprehensive and effective, including implementing numerous recommendations we made in our previous reports that are designed to make important and significant improvements." ®

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