Judge Denise Cote last week granted preliminary approval to a more than $70 million e-book settlement involving 54 U.S. states and territories. The order starts the clock ticking toward final approval, and notice will now go out to consumers within 30 days. Consumers will then have 90 days to opt-out of the deal, or elect to receive a check instead of a credit to their e-book retailer account(s).
In a potentially interesting twist, Cote set a public hearing on the settlement for February 8 at the United States Courthouse in New York City. Under the order, consumers can be heard on the fairness of the settlement "to the extent allowed by the court" either in "support of, or in opposition to the fairness, reasonableness, and adequacy of the settlement." However, no person "shall be heard in opposition" unless they file notice with the court by December 12, along with the basis of their opposition.
Public hearings are standard in such cases, but given the outpouring of opposition to the DoJ settlement, and the denial of a public hearing in that matter the public hearing here raises the possibility that the state settlement could become a venue for voicing opposition to the price-fixing charges. Anyone who bought an e-book from the three houses plus Macmillan and Penguin between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 can ask to be heard at the hearing.
The filingl shows that once the final agreement is approved, conusmers will have one year to claim the credit (or get a check).A Web site, www.EbooksAGSettlements.com, is being created, although it wasn't active Monday morning. There will also be a number to call 1-866-621-4153.