Alleged eBooks Price-Fixing: New Canadian Class-Action Lawsuit

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Canada has joined the class-action lawsuits against Apple club over allegations that the tech giant had colluded with five other publishing houses: Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Penguin, and Macmillan in an effort to raise the price of electronic books for iPad and iPhone.

This move came no long after the Department of Justice initiated a similar lawsuit in the United States to which Apple issued an official response earlier last week.

The court documents, filed under the name Antoine Pontbriand, state the basis of their case as:

“The anti-competitive nature of this conspiracy, and the Publisher Respondents’ motivation to control ebook pricing, is also revealed by the fact that the price of an ebook in many cases now approaches – or even exceeds – the price of the same book in paper even though there are almost no incremental costs to produce each additional ebook unit.”

Under the agency model, Apple allowed publishers to set their own retail prices and then pass along 30% of their revenue to Apple.

The lawyer responsible for the class-action, Normand Painchaud, feels that “prices have definitely gone up, so consumers could be eligible for damages.” This is only the first of three Canadian-based cases of this type with courts in British Columbia and Ontario also readying themselves to hear arguments on these same accusations.

Though class-action lawsuits can often take years to resolve themselves, if they are successful all Canadians who purchased eBooks over the last two years may be eligible for a reward (with books increasing in price by an average of $2 to $4 per title, this could be a hefty sum). With some luck there will be settlements that come prior to the case being heard by the courts –much like in the United States where several of the publishers decided to make agreements ahead of time.

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