fixing allegations

MS AG secures $69 million agreement over E-Book price-fixing allegations Jackson, MS–Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, along with 54 Attorneys General in other states, districts and U.S. territories, have reached an antitrust settlement with three of the largest book publishers in the United States. Hachette Book Group  Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C. and Simon & Schuster Inc. which has resulted in more than $69 million being returned to consumers to resolve antitrust claims of an alleged unlawful conspiracy to fix the prices of electronic books (E-books).   The publishers have also agreed to change the way they price E-books going forward.
 
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.