US publishers and Amazon move to dismiss e-book price-fixing suit

US publishers and Amazon move to dismiss e-book price-fixing suit

The Big Five publishers in the US and Amazon have called for a court to dismiss a lawsuit alleging they colluded to fix e-book prices.

Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster are being taken to court alongside Amazon by the same law firm, Hagens Berman, which sued Apple and major book publishers over the pricing of e-books in 2011.

In filings on 17th September, posted online by Publishers Weekly, the companies' lawyers said there was no evidence of coordination or agreement by them to set the price. They argued that such a scheme was “illogical”.

Amazon's brief states: “Plaintiffs allege that five of the largest publishers of electronic books have forged an illogical conspiracy to collectively instill monopoly power in a single downstream retailer, Amazon.com. If true, plaintiffs’ conspiracy allegation would mean that the publisher defendants got together to create a monopolist retailer with whom they would then have to deal. Further reinforcing the implausibility of this theory, this would have happened while still under supervision from the Department of Justice (DOJ) after allegedly conspiring with Apple to reduce Amazon’s e-book sales.”

In a separate filing, the publishers state the complaint merely shows they entered into separate contracts with “similar terms” because they were facing the same market forces, rather than because of any conspiracy.

They state: “These allegations simply describe lawful conduct no more remarkable than individual pedestrians putting up their umbrellas in a rainstorm and cannot support an inference of conspiracy. They certainly do not support the facially implausible conspiracy plaintiffs ask the court to infer— that the publisher defendants conspired to insulate Amazon from competition, an objective entirely contrary to the publisher defendants’ economic interests, individually and collectively.”

Earlier this month, the companies also moved to have a similar case, filed by an indie bookseller, dismissed over claims of a conspiracy to restrain price competition. The plaintiff has since amended its case to centre on claims of illegal price discrimination.