Amazon and the ‘Big Five’ international publishers are named in a class action lawsuit accused of price-fixing. Law firm Hagens Berman filed in New York last Thursday, ten years after winning a similar case against Apple and the same publishers – Penguin Random House, Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster.
Amazon is named as sole defendant with the ‘Big Five’ allegedly colluding in price-fixing. It alleges Amazon and the publishers collude in a ‘Most Favoured Nations’ type of trade agreement. Price restraints that force consumers to pay more for e-books purchased on non-Amazon retail platforms are alleged.
The claim estimates that almost 90% of all US e-book sales and 50% of all print books are through Amazon. It also claims this has a major distorting effect on the book market.
E-book prices in 2013 and 2014 after the Apple case. However, Hagens Berman claims prices rose again after Amazon renegotiated contracts in 2015.
The case is based on the venerable Sherman Antitrust Act, citing restraint of trade. It seeks compensation, damages and injunctions on behalf of consumers who purchased e-books through competitors.
The state of Connecticut is also investigating Amazon for potential anti-competitive behaviour in its sales of e-books.
The 2011 case expanded to several states and the US Dept. of Justice for the attack on Amazon’s dominance of the e-book market. It ended in settlements by Apple ($450m) and the publishers ($166m) .
Hagens Berman is a private law firm. However, the wider US discomfort with it’s giant tech and social media companies it set to bring scrutiny and even regulation in 2021.