Amazon.com and ‘Big Five’ publishers accused of ebook price-fixing

17 Janvier, 2021, 17:17 | Auteur: Christine Menetries
  • Amazon hit with class action antitrust lawsuit claiming it colluded with major publishers to illegally drive up ebook prices by 30

The lawsuit alleged that Amazon entered into anticompetitive pricing agreements in 2015 with Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster that allowed the companies to artificially increase prices by as much as 30%.

Today, consumers hit Amazon.com with a nationwide class-action lawsuit accusing the world's largest retailer of artificially inflating the retail price of e-books through anticompetitive agreements with the nation's five largest book publishers, according to Hagens Berman. The complaint stated that Amazon's co-conspirators were involved in a similar litigation before.

The EU reached an agreement with Amazon in 2015 over its use of MFNs, saying at the time that the practice "may have made it more hard for other e-book platforms to innovate and compete effectively with Amazon".

Amazon did not immediately respond to questions about the allegations in the lawsuit.

But under the deal, e-books by the five publishers have to sell at the same, high Amazon price, the suit alleges, calling it "a conspiracy to fix the retail price of e-books". Now, as the current complaint makes clear, Amazon has stepped into the anticompetitive role once occupied by Apple, and its monopolistic actions have been condemned by US and European regulators.

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In a report issued on October 5, 2020, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee criticized Amazon as having "a history of using MFN clauses" for anticompetitive purposes. Amazon faces investigations in California and Washington state into whether it abused its power over third-party sellers on its Marketplace platform. And the Federal Trade Commission is investigating the company's online retail practices.

Amazon has been charged for breaching antitrust and consumer-protection laws.

Rather, a government antitrust lawsuit a decade ago that sought to lower prices has contributed to higher prices. Anxious that the move would undercut the value of their products, publishers made a deal with Apple to fix e-book prices against Amazon, inflating prices for e-books across all platforms, according to a 2012 antitrust suit filed by the Department of Justice against Apple and publishers.

The result suggests that the US government's lawsuits against Google and Facebook and a recently announced CT antitrust investigation into Amazon's e-book business may not have the desired effects, even if governments win.

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