Massachusetts Consumers to Begin Receiving Refunds From E-Book Price Fixing Settlements Totaling $166 Million
More Than $5 Million to be Distributed to Affected Consumers in Massachusetts
BOSTON – Massachusetts consumers will begin receiving credits or checks this week as the result of settlements totaling $166 million over an electronic book (e-book) price fixing lawsuit brought against Apple, Inc. and five of the largest e-book publishers in the United States, Attorney General Martha Coakley announced today. More than $5 million will be distributed to Massachusetts consumers with the potential for additional relief in the future.
The lawsuit, brought by AG Coakley and attorneys general from 32 other states, alleged that Apple and the five e-book publishers – Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Simon & Schuster Inc., Holtzbrinck Publishers, LLC, d/b/a Macmillan, and Penguin Group (USA) Inc. – conspired to eliminate retail price competition in order to raise e-book prices, in violation of federal and state antitrust laws.
“Relief is on its way to consumers who were forced to pay higher prices for popular e-books,” AG Coakley said. “This result makes clear that price-fixing and collusion among competitors is unacceptable, and in clear violation of antitrust laws.”
The settlements have been approved by the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The amount of the account credit or check will be based on the number of eligible e-books purchased by a consumer, through retailers such as Amazon or Barnes & Noble, between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012. Consumers will receive $3.17 per e-book that was a New York Times bestseller, and $0.73 for each non-New York Times bestseller purchase.
Whether a consumer receives a credit or a check depends upon the retailer from which the relevant e-books were purchased. For some retailers it also depends upon whether a claim was properly filed, or whether the consumer specifically requested a check. Eligible consumers are asked to review emails from their e-book retailer, or from the Settlement Administrator, regarding account credits or checks.
Last April, Macmillan agreed to pay $20 million to consumers nationwide plus costs and fees. In May, Penguin Group (USA) Inc. agreed to a settlement including $75 million in consumer compensation.
In 2012, in advance of the lawsuit, three publishers – Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C., and Simon & Schuster Inc. – agreed to pay more than $69 million to consumers to settle similar price-fixing allegations.
Legal proceedings continue with regard to the claims against Apple. Following a trial in June 2013, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote held that Apple is liable for antitrust violations due to its actions facilitating the conspiracy to eliminate retail price competition in eBooks. A second trial is currently scheduled to determine how much Apple must pay in damages as a result of that determination of liability. If successful, Massachusetts consumers will receive additional refunds in the future.
For more information on the settlements, please visit www.ebookagsettlements.com.
This case is being handled by Michael Franck, Assistant Attorney General, and Daniel Van Lunen, Paralegal and Economic Analyst, in Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Antitrust Division, as well as William Matlack, Chief of the Antitrust Division.
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