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Amazon, Big Five seek to dismiss indie booksellers’ price-fixing claim

In the US, Amazon and the Big Five publishers have made separate filings asking a federal court to dismiss the latest iteration of a price-fixing claim filed against them on behalf of indie booksellers, reports Publishers Weekly.

In March, the law firm Hagens Berman filed a suit against Amazon and publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House, with Illinois bookshop Bookends & Beginnings the named plaintiff, on behalf of a potential class of booksellers. The suit alleged a conspiracy to restrain price competition in the retail and online print trade book market, in breach of the Sherman Act.

The Amended Complaint, filed in July, accuses Amazon and the publishers of illegal price discrimination under the Robinson-Patman Act. Both Amazon and the publishers insist there’s no illegal agreement to fix or restrain prices, and state that ‘the amended complaint is legally deficient and must be tossed’, according to Publishers Weekly.

‘The Complaint recites that Amazon is a leading book retailer, takes issue with ordinary price competition, and tries to illogically and conclusorily claim that Publisher Defendants conspired with each other and with Amazon to confer a monopoly on Amazon, despite Publisher Defendants resisting Amazon’s growing position in the market for decades,’ reads the publishers motion to dismiss. ‘This is simply not plausible. After realising its originally pled Sherman Act conspiracy claims had no basis, Plaintiff tried to repackage them in its Complaint and bolster them with a price discrimination claim under the Robinson-Patman Act. The Complaint, however, is fatally deficient under either statute and must be dismissed.’

Similarly, Amazon lawyers insist there is no conspiracy with the publishers, no evidence of illegal collusion and that its bargaining for lower prices is simply good business.

‘Bargaining between buyers and sellers is one of the most commonplace, precompetitive actions that can occur in any market,’ the Amazon brief states. ‘As the Supreme Court has stressed repeatedly, it would do great damage to competition and consumers alike if the [Robinson-Patman Act] were misconstrued as having outlawed competitive bargaining.’

Hagens Berman are also engaged in an ongoing ebook price-fixing case against Amazon and the publishers.


Category: International news