Amazon, a Longtime E-Book Discounter, Is Accused of Driving Up the Price of E-Books

Amazon . com Inc., which originally came up with the idea of charging bargain-basement prices for electronic books, is now being accused of forcing customers on other book sites to pay too much for them.

A lawsuit filed Thursday in a federal district court in New York alleges that a deal between Amazon and five major book publishers has led to higher e-book prices for all consumers, because it prevents rival retailers from selling any of these publishers’ e-books at a lower price than on Amazon.

The suit, which was filed by the law firm Hagens Berman and is seeking class-action status, said Amazon charges high commissions and other costs to publishers, “which in turn significantly increases the retail price of the e-books they sell on” As a result of the deal with the five big publishers, the price they charge on Amazon also has to be the price they charge everywhere else.

“In a competitive market, the Big Five could sell e-books at a lower price on their own websites or through Amazon’s retail competitors that offer lower commissions and fees,” the lawsuit said.

Calling it a “conspiracy to fix the retail price of e-books,” the suit alleges that the deal between Amazon and the five publishers—which it said account for 80% of all books sold in the U.S.—violates antitrust law.

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