A proposed class action lawsuit by a Seattle company has contributed to the swarm of antitrust scrutiny that is gathering around Amazon.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in federal court in New York on behalf of Chicago-area bookseller Bookends and Beginnings, alleged that Amazon had colluded to set the prices for printed books.
Amazon’s restrictive contracts with major publishers have made it impossible for booksellers to beat Amazon on price, claims Hagens Berman law firm in Seattle. The contracts with publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster – known as the “Big Five” – prohibit publishers from selling books to other retailers at a price below the price offered by Amazon. so Hagens Berman are “anti-competitive”. Lawyers suggest the class includes all booksellers who bought books from the Big Five after March 2017.
Amazon did not respond to questions about allegations in the lawsuit.
Bookends & Beginnings owner Nina Barrett said in a statement that Amazon’s growth has threatened her business.
“I’ve seen Amazon grow into the juggernaut it has become,” she said. “I have seen firsthand the devastation caused by publishing, bookstores, and local brick and mortar shopping.”
Hagens Berman has a long history of filing class action lawsuits over price fixing. In 2011, the company sued Apple, claiming the tech giant was propping up e-book prices to the detriment of consumers. Another case against Amazon was initiated earlier this year, in which similar price agreements were made regarding the company’s e-book division.
Days before the lawsuit was filed, Connecticut authorities said they had also opened an investigation into whether Amazon’s agreements to acquire e-books from publishers violated antitrust laws.
Amazon is facing ongoing antitrust investigations by attorneys general in California, New York and Washington. Founder Jeff Bezos was harassed by the House’s antitrust subcommittee last year about Amazon’s allegedly unfair practices against third parties using its platform.
Nearly 90% of online sales of printed books are through Amazon, according to a report by the House Antitrust Subcommittee last year. The company is also responsible for 50% of all print book sales, the report said.
– Katherine Khashimova Long / Seattle Times / Tribune News Service