On Friday, Amazon and the Big Five American publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House—independently moved to dismiss a price-fixing lawsuit against them. The suit was brought by direct purchasers of ebooks as a class action in the Southern District of New York in January of 2021. The class is represented by Hagens Berman, a Seattle-based law firm of about 100 lawyers that specializes in class-action lawsuits and successfully sued Apple for ebook price-fixing in 2011.
The class action lawsuit alleges that Amazon struck deals with the largest American publishers to strike deals that would artificially maintain the high price of ebooks and grant Amazon a monopoly in the ebooks industry. Although HarperCollins sells ebooks themselves, most ebooks sales are through online retail platforms Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books, and Barnes & Noble. Amazon is responsible for ninety percent of ebook sales.
Amazon and publishers allege that such a deal would be antithetical to the interests of publishers, undermining claims of a conspiracy to fix prices. Rather, the companies allege that each publisher, facing similar market pressures (such as the increasing consumption of ebooks and the popularity of Amazon’s Kindle ereader) entered into similar agreements with Amazon. Amazon often enters deals with companies to distribute their products to consumers, often at terms that are favorable to Amazon, according to an ongoing suit against Amazon by the DC Attorney General.
The class will now have the chance to respond to Amazon and the publishers’ motion to dismiss, which will determine whether the case goes forward.