Might consumers see e-book refunds from Apple in time for the holidays? Apple’s hopes for a reversal of Judge Denise Cote’s 2013 verdict finding it liable for price fixing now rest with the Supreme Court—and attorneys this week confirmed that Apple has until roughly the end of September to petition the high court for review, or to file an extension.
The 90-day clock on Apple’s Supreme Court bid began ticking on June 30, after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed Cote’s 2013 verdict. And in something of a surprise, Apple attorneys declined to ask for a rehearing at the Second Circuit, or for an en banc hearing of the entire appeals court. On August 21, the clerk for the Second Circuit issued a formal mandate affirming Judge Denise Cote’s 2013 verdict, effectively closing the case before the Second Circuit, leaving the Supreme Court as the final option for Apple.
If Apple does not file a petition with the Supreme Court in the coming weeks, the liability judgment against it will be considered final, per a 2014 settlement agreement with 33 states and a consumer class, and it will trigger payment of $400 million in refunds to consumers. Because the Apple settlement is following the template of previous publisher settlements, payments could flow quickly.
Apple attorneys did not respond to a request for comment. However, sources close to the litigation said that a petition to the Supreme Court was expected by the end of the month.
If Apple abandons its legal battle, the $400 million in consumer rebates—the bulk of which would be deposited in consumers’ retailer accounts—would certainly be a boon to the book industry’s year-end sales, although how much of a boon remains to be seen. Unlike the publishers’ settlements, which limited the refunds to book purchases (print and digital), the Apple refunds can be used on “any product or service” offered by the retailer.