Delaware AG joins e-book price-fixing lawsuit

Delaware’s Attorney General wants to join a lawsuit against Apple, and two of the nation’s largest publishers, alleging a conspiracy to inflate the price of e-books.

The plaintiffs say consumers nationwide were overcharged by more than $100 million through an alleged conspiracy that began in 2009. 

“Conspiring to increase prices that consumers pay is against the law,” Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said.  “We’re acting to protect consumers and ensure fair and open competition.” 

A two-year investigation initiated by the State of Texas uncovered an agreement involving Apple and the publishers to eliminate competition and artificially raise prices by imposing a distribution model in which publishers set prices, not retailers.  A New York Times electronic bestseller that might have sold for $9.99 before 2009 began to retail for $12.99 or $14.99. 

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Fifteen states and the District of Columbia originally filed the lawsuit in April.  Biden and 16 other Attorneys General have filed a motion seeking court approval to join the lawsuit.  Three publishers have agreed to settle and are not named in the lawsuit. 

The filing in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York seeks damages for customers who paid what the Attorneys General called “artificially inflated prices.”  They also seek civil penalties and injunctive relief to “stop the illegal practices and ensure fair competition.”

E-book sales now account for about 25 percent of all books sold according to industry analysts.

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