Thursday, August 30, 2012

e-Book Owners Due A Refund As Publishers Reach $69 Million Settlement

If you've bought e-books in the past you might be due a refund on the purchase price. Three top e-book publishers have reached an antitrust settlement with the attorneys generals of 54 U.S. states, districts and territories. Under the settlement they have agreed to pay more than $69 million, most of which will be refunded to customers.

Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers and Simon & Schuster have all agreed to pay more than $69 million to U.S. states to settle charges they collaborated to fix prices of e-books. According to the agreement the three publishers also agreed to pay more than &7.5 million dollars to cover the goverments court cost and they publishers agreed to change the way they price e-books going forward. A move which should result in slightly lower prices for some consumers.

The same three publishers agreed to settle a U.S. Department of Justice e-book pricing-fixing case in April, in a case that Apple and publishers Penguin Group and MacMillan are still fighting. Apple and the remaining publishers deny that any conspiracy took place and claim that Apple and each publisher independently arrived at the same terms. The group further argues that they did only what they thought was necessary to break an Amazon monopoly on the e-book market.

The attorney general filed a civil antitrust case Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against the five publishers. The lawsuit accused the five publishers of conspiring and agreeing "to increase retail e-book prices for all consumers."

State and federal prosecutors, however, were not convinced that Amazon’s alleged monopoly could justify the defendants’ actions and they are pressing their case against the remaining companies (U.S. v. Apple, 12-cv-02826, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York [Manhattan]).

“Unlawful collusion and price-fixing not only violates antitrust laws, it is anti-competitive and inconsistent with the free market approach that is critical to our economy,” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said in a written statement. “Today’s settlements provide refunds to customers who paid artificially inflated prices for e-books.”

A representative of Simon & Schuster called the settlement "fair."

"We're pleased to now have put this matter behind us, and moving forward, to continue our work with authors and accounts to grow the market for books of all formats -- and to take advantage of the many opportunities afforded us by publishing in the digital era," he said.

Reimbursements range from 25 cents to $1.32 per book, and payments are scheduled to begin 30 days after final court approval of the settlement.

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