Press Release

Alaska Attorney General Secures $69 Million Agreement with Three Major U.S. Publishers over E-Book Price-Fixing Allegations

August 29, 2012

Alaska Attorney General Mike Geraghty, along with 54 attorneys general in other states, districts and U.S. territories, announced today that they have reached an antitrust settlement with three of the largest book publishers in the United States. Hachette Book Group (USA), HarperCollins Publishers L.L.C. and Simon & Schuster Inc. have agreed to pay a total of more than $69 million to consumers to resolve antitrust claims of an alleged unlawful conspiracy to fix the prices of electronic books (E-books). They have also agreed to change the way they price E-books going forward.

The settlement occurs in conjunction with a civil antitrust lawsuit filed today in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York against Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster, which alleges that the three settling publishers and others, including non-settling publishers Macmillan and Penguin (collectively, the “Agency Five” publishers), “conspired and agreed to increase retail E-book prices for all consumers” and “agreed to eliminate E-book retail price competition between E-book outlets, such that retail prices to consumers would be the same regardless of the outlet patronized by the consumer.”

The lawsuit and today’s settlement stem from a two-year antitrust investigation conducted jointly by the Connecticut and Texas Attorneys General and U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. That investigation developed evidence that the Agency Five conspired to end E-Book retailers' freedom to compete on price by taking control of pricing from E-Book retailers and substantially increasing the prices that consumers paid for E-Books. The department said that the publishers prevented retail price competition resulting in consumers paying millions of dollars more for their e-books.

In addition to paying the $69 million consumer compensation, Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have agreed to terminate their existing agency agreements with certain retailers, requiring the publishers to grant retailers–such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble–the freedom to reduce the prices of their E-book titles. For two years they will be prohibited from making any new agreements that constrain retailers’ ability to offer consumer discounts or other promotions which encourage the sale of e-Books.

Contact Assistant Attorney General Ed Sniffen at 269-5220 with any questions.

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