|Publishers agree to e-book price-fixing settlement|
|Thursday, 30 August 2012 11:00 PM EDT|
Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have reached a $69 million deal with several states over alleged price-fixing for e-books. Based on statements from attorneys general in Maryland, Ohio, Texas Colorado and Florida, the settlement was made earlier this week, and must be approved by a federal judge in New York, Bloomberg reported.
"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 statement. "[The] settlements provide refunds to customers who paid artificially inflated prices for e-books."
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed an antitrust suit in April against computer giant Apple and five major publishers—including Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group (USA) and Holtzbrinck Publishers (Macmillan)—to allow greater competition on e-book prices.
The DOJ said that the defendants sought to raise e-book prices "significantly higher" than the $9.99 level at which they were selling, Bloomberg reported. The publishers viewed online retailer Amazon.com's discounted prices on e-books as a "substantial challenge to their traditional business model," according to the complaint.
Hachette, which publishes Christian books under its FaithWords and Jericho Books imprints, said in a statement that the company had "reluctantly agreed to join the settlement," but that it "was not involved in a conspiracy to illegally fix the price of e-books."
HarperCollins—the parent company of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson—responded in a press release that it "did not violate any anti-trust laws and will comply with its obligations under the agreement."
Simon & Schuster, which publishes Christian titles under Howard Books, has not issued a statement.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a statement that the settlement "will repay consumers affected by [the] price-fixing schemes and will restore competition in the electronic book market."
She said about 97% of consumers will get notice of the settlement by e-mail. In addition to Florida, 54 attorneys general in other states, districts and U.S. territories joined in the settlement, Bloomberg reported.