Friday, March 26, 2021

New Price Fixing Suit Goes After Publishers and Amazon for Print Prices

Earlier this year, the law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro (Hagens) filed suit alleging the price fixing and collusion among and the five largest trade publishers which, the suit alleges, caused consumers to pay higher prices.

Now the same law firm is alleging a similar crime with respect to print book prices.  In the press release, the law firm states, 

“We believe we have uncovered a classic antitrust price-fixing scheme akin to exactly what Amazon and the Big Five book publishers have been accused of in the past,” said Steve Berman, managing partner of Hagens Berman and attorney representing the proposed class of booksellers. “The Big Five and Amazon have sought to squeeze every penny they can from online and retail booksellers through a complex and restrictive set of agreements, and we intend to put an end to this anticompetitive behavior.” 

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on Mar. 25, 2021, and states that Amazon colluded with the Big Five U.S. book publishers – Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster – to restrain competition in the sale of print trade books, or non-academic texts such as fiction and non-fiction material.  

Back in 2011, this law firm also sued Apple accusing them of fixing e-book prices at artificially high levels and in that case Apple agreed to settle for $400 million. Hagens has a colorful history as these links (1, 2, 3) suggest but it also was recognized in 2020 by Law360 as Class Action Practice Team of the year. 

It remains to be seen how these cases will be adjudicated over the next few (likely) years.  As noted in an earlier post, Connecticut is also taking a look at Amazon and eBook pricing according to the NYTimes.


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