Legal News, March 2021

The law firm of Hagens Berman is suing Amazon and the Big Five publishers in a class-action lawsuit, alleging that the publishers conspired with the online retailer to illegally fix ebook prices. Their initial complaint was filed in the Southern District of New York on January 14, 2021, and only named Amazon as a defen­dant, with Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster listed as co-conspirators. The firm amended the complaint on February 4, 2021, including those publishers as defendants as well. The filing claims that “Amazon and the Big Five agreed to price restraints,” forcing readers to “over­pay” for ebooks, with the most-favored-nation clauses in Amazon’s contracts creating a “contractual stranglehold” that makes it impossible for other retailers to compete. The plaintiffs want consumers to be reimbursed, plus damages, and an in­junction to stop Amazon from “enforcing anti-competitive price restraints.” Hagens Berman was the firm that first sued Apple and the (then) Big Six publishers way back in 2011, an effort that snowballed into multiple suits from state attorneys general and the US Department of Justice, lead­ing the publishers to settle and provide over $150 million in consumer credits. Apple went all the way to trial and was forced to repay $400 million to ebook buyers. This new lawsuit covers some contracts that were negotiated with DoJ oversight in the wake of that first antitrust trial.

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