Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster were quick to strike settlements in state antitrust lawsuits brought earlier this year over alleged ebook price fixing. Now, the two sides have settled on a payout, as well, with the publishers agreeing to pay a total of $69 million to consumers across 49 states and five US territories.
The proposed settlement would go into effect 30 days after being approved by a federal judge in New York. At that point, customers who purchased agency-priced ebooks between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 would be eligible to receive restitution, though amounts will vary by state. Consumers in Connecticut, for instance, would receive up to $1.26 million in restitution, while those in Hawaii would receive up to $300,000. (Minnesota is the only state not involved in the settlement.)
Baltimore's ABC News reports that eligible consumers would be able to receive refunds either as a check or as credit toward future ebook purchases. The outlet also reports that Apple, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo will notify eligible users via email, as will Google and Sony. Sony will automatically issue checks, while Google customers will have to file a claim online.
Connecticut Attorney General George Jespen led the states' investigation alongside Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. "This action sends a strong message that this sort of anticompetitive behavior will not be accepted," Jespen said in a statement. "Through our ongoing litigation, we hope to provide additional restitution to consumers. Additionally, I’m especially proud of the exemplary bipartisan cooperation on both the state and federal level on this matter, which involved 54 states and jurisdictions working together on behalf of consumers across the country."
This week's settlement is just the latest chapter in a legal saga that began in April, when the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Apple and five publishers on charges of colluding to raise ebook prices. Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster reached settlements with the federal government, while Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin continue to fight the case in court.