Amazon hit with antitrust lawsuit alleging e-book price fixing

Amazon is accused of fixing the price of e-books sold on the e-commerce site through anticompetitive agreements with the nation’s top five publishers, according to a complaint filed Thursday. 

The class action lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York alleges that Amazon and the publishers entered into price fixing agreements in 2015, allowing the publishers to increase their e-book prices by up to 30 percent while protecting Amazon from price competition from other e-book retailers. 

The lawsuit also alleges Amazon violated antitrust and consumer-protection laws through the agreements with the publishers known as the “Big Five,” made up of Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin-Random House and Simon & Schuster. 

The lawsuit, filed by the firm Hagens Berman, follows a similar class action case the firm filed against Apple and the so-called Big Five in 2011. That case ended with Apple settling for $400 million and the publishers settling for millions more, the firm said. 

The settlement also prevented the Big Five from interfering with retailers’ discounts for two years, resulting in lower and more competitive e-book pricing in 2013 to 2014, before the alleged price fixing deal Amazon and the publishers entered into in 2015, according to the complaint. 

“Amazon’s abuse of power proves, yet again, that when it comes to violating antitrust laws, the New Economy is up to the same old tricks,” Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman, said in a statement.

Spokespeople for Amazon and Macmillan declined to comment. Spokespeople for the other publishing companies were not immediately available for comment. 

The lawsuit was filed the same week Connecticut Attorney General William Tong (D) said his office has an “active and ongoing antitrust investigation” into Amazon over “potentially anticompetitive terms in their e-book distribution agreements with certain publishers.” 

Connecticut was among the states that had previously filed a lawsuit against Apple over competition in e-book sales. The Justice Department also sued Apple in 2012 alleging it conspired with major publishers over the pricing of e-books. 

The state-led investigation into Amazon’s e-book business is one of many antitrust investigations facing the e-commerce giant, including state-led and federal efforts.

Tags Amazon Amazon Apple Apple Inc. Big tech e-book Hagens Berman HarperCollins HarperCollins Macmillan Macmillan Publishers Penguin Group Price fixing Publishing Simon & Schuster

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