The settlement occurs in conjunction with a civil antitrust lawsuit filed recently in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster. In the lawsuit, the States allege that the three settling publishers and others (known as the Agency Five) “conspired and agreed to increase retail E-book prices for all consumers” and “agreed to eliminate E-book retail price competition between E-book outlets, such that retail prices to consumers would be the same regardless of the outlet patronized by the consumer.”
The lawsuit and settlement stem from a two-year antitrust investigation which developed evidence of a conspiracy by the Agency Five to end E-Book retailers’ freedom to compete on price by taking control of pricing from E-Book retailers and substantially increasing the prices that consumers paid for E-Books. As a result of this conduct, the States allege that consumers paid millions of dollars more for their e-books.
“Our legal action sends a strong message that competitors cannot get away with price-fixing,” Attorney General Jim Hood said. “Colluding to fix prices raises costs for customers, who, in this case, have paid millions dollars more for some of the most popular E-Book titles. In addition to the restitution consumers will receive, this settlement will restore competition in the E-Book market by promoting E-Book competition among retailers. "
If the Court gives final approval to the settlements, Hatchette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster will compensate consumers who purchased E-books from any of the Agency Five during the period of April 1, 2010 through May 21, 2012. Consumers in Mississippi are expected to receive up to $407,823 in total compensation. The settling defendants will also pay approximately $7.5 million to the states for fees and costs.
Most people eligible to receive restitution have already received notice by email or postcard from E-book retailers who volunteered to provide notice as a service to their customers. Anyone who thinks they may be included but who has not received notice should visit www.EBookAGSettlements.com <http://www.EBookAGSettlements.com/> or call 1-866-621-4153 <tel:1-866-621-4153> to learn more about the settlements and decide whether or not to file a claim. Claim forms must be filed online or postmarked by December 12, 2012 <x-apple-data-detectors://10> . Links to the settlement site can also be found at www.agjimhood.com <http://www.agjimhood.com/> on the main page under “Important”. Click on “E-Book settlement”.
In addition to paying the $69 million consumer compensation, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have agreed to terminate their existing agency agreements with certain retailers, requiring the publishers to grant those retailers–such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble–the freedom to reduce the prices of their E-book titles. For two years they will be prohibited from making any new agreements that constrain retailers’ ability to offer consumer discounts or other promotions which encourage the sale of e-Books. The settlement agreement also precludes the three publishers from further conspiring or sharing competitively sensitive information with their competitors for five years.