Amazon Fighting Antitrust and Class-Action Lawsuits for E-Book Price Fixing



Amazon Fighting Antitrust and Class-Action Lawsuits for E-Book Price Fixing



The world’s largest e-book retailer, Amazon.com, has been slapped with a class-action lawsuit on Thursday, January 14, 2020. This coincides with the antitrust lawsuit by Connecticut Attorney General William Tong, a Democrat. Tong stated that an ongoing investigation into the collusion with antitrust and anti-competitive agreements with preferred publishers.

Price Fixing


Consumers are alleging that Amazon conspired with the five major e-book retailers to artificially set and inflate prices on e-books through private anti-competitive agreements.

Amazon, which started as a book reseller, controls 90% of the market. The big five publishing companies, Simon& Schuster, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Hachette, and Penguin-Random House, colluded with Amazon to raise the price of e-books sold on Amazon’s online platform. Book readers were subject to paying higher fixed costs on competitive e-book retailer websites.

In 2015, the major book publishers contracted an agreement to upcharge their e-book prices by up to 30% while simultaneously protecting Amazon from the price-setting of other e-book competitor retail websites.

Secondly, attorneys for the complaint also allege that Amazon violated antitrust laws with agreements from the big five publishing companies.

The Plaintiffs


Attorneys filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court for the state of New York, the Southern District.

Counsel for the plaintiffs are Steve W. Berman and Barbara Mahoney; the case number is 1:21-CV-00351. The attorneys are pursuing two causes of action:


  1. Violation of the Sherman Act: Unlawful restraints in trade 15 U.S.C. § 1

  2. Violation of the Sherman Act: Monopolization 15 U.S.C. § 2



When a consumer shopped around on the Internet for an e-book through a competitor, the consumer found that the prices were close or the same.


  • Shannon Fremgen: Plaintiff lives in Denton, Texas. She regularly purchases books from Barnes and Nobles and through the top five co-conspirators for Amazon’s e-books. Fremgen bought After Sundown, Mystere Parish Complete Collection, Death Echo from HarperCollins. The prices were the same as on Amazon.com for 2020.


  • Mary Christopherson-Juve: She lives in Yuma, Arizona. Plaintiff purchased from HarperCollins The Guardians and Camino Winds . From Macmillan, she bought The Defense and Summer House. All were the same prices on Amazon.com platform.


  • Denise Deleon: She lives in Dysart, Iowa. She bought books on Barnes and Nobles and through Penguin books. Her favorite title was Turbo Twenty-Three. Plaintiff bought the book on September 14, 2020, for $2.99 — the exact same price on Amazon.com.



The Apple E-Book Lawsuit


In 2011, the law firm Hagens Berman brought similar litigation against Apple Inc. Steve Berman, the founding partner of the Hagens Berman law firm, said that “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.”

Apple had conspired with the same five big publishers for fixed pricing. The publishers sought to establish prices without any discounts at the retail level. In this scheme, the publishers changed from the wholesale model — the retailer would determine the costs of books on the shelves — to the agency model.

With the agency model, wholesalers would determine how much consumers would pay for books. Within this model, the retailer is just a pass-through agent.

Inside the collusion was the MFN or the most favored nation clause. It prevented retailers from offering discounts. Retailers had to sell their books at the same price as Apple on the iTunes website.

The class-action lawsuit was successful. Apple paid a $400 million settlement to plaintiffs, along with hundreds of millions of dollars going to the publishers. Authors received extra royalties, and consumers received refunds.

European Regulators



U.S.A. and European regulators have now condemned Amazon for stepping in Apple’s previous monopolistic anti-competitive role.

Like Apple, Amazon prefers not to compete on a level playing field for everyone. Instead, Amazon would like to destroy the competition. According to Steve Berman, things are not supposed to work this way.

The complaint wants an injunction against the company by enforcing Amazon to stop price constraints and stop pushing fraudulent increases on prices through its collaboration with the big five publishers.

Counsel seeks monetary reimbursement with damages for consumers who bought e-books through Amazon’s competitors.

Hagens Berman Sobol Shapior LLP is a class-action consumer law firm with ten offices around the world. The firm goes the extra mile for clients by getting settlements plaintiffs need to be made whole.

Outside of firm life, Hagens Berman has received numerous accolades and rewards. The most famous title is “Most Feared Plaintiff’s firm.” For follow up information about Hagens Berman, review the website at www.hbsslaw.com.










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