Three book publishers recently settled charges of price fixing e-books and have agreed to pay over $69 million. The publishers are Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers and Simon & Schuster. The attorneys general of 54 U.S. states, districts and territories agreed to the settlement of the antitrust case just a few days ago. As part of the settlement, the publishers also had to agree to change the way they price e-books in the future. The same publishers have already agreed to settle a federal suit for price fixing brought by the U.S. Department of Justice in April. The only defendants still remaining in the federal and state cases are Apple, Penguin Group and MacMillan.
The attorneys general had filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and accused the five publishers (the three that settled and the two still remaining in the case) of conspiring and agreeing “to increase retail e-book prices for all consumers.”
The settlement comes on the heels of a two-year antitrust investigation conducted by the DOJ and the attorneys general of Connecticut and Texas. The investigators concluded that the publishers in question worked with Apple to fix prices for e-books and limit the discounts retailers could give. As a result of the price fixing, consumers paid tens of millions of dollars more for e-books than they should have.
The settlement payment will go towards restitution of consumers who were harmed by the price-fixing scheme. The settlement also aims to increase competition to the e-book market, which will ostensibly inure to the consumers’ benefit.
Simon & Schuster deemed the settlement “fair” and noted that “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.”