Some $166 million in settlement funds collected as part of a deal to settle state and consumer charges of e-book price-fixing began flowing to consumers today.
The settlements with Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin were approved by Judge Denise Cote on December 6, 2013. The refunds apply to e-books purchased from any of the five settling publishers between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012. Credits expire after one year, and under terms of the settlement the refunds must be spent on books. At those retailers where print books are also available, the credits can be used to buy print books as well.
After a few adjustments, the final refund credit for each New York Times bestseller covered by the settlement came to $3.17 (up from the $3.06 last calculated), while non-New York Times bestsellers remained at their last calculated amount of $0.73 per e-book. A small fraction of consumers opted to receive checks, and according to the settlement website those checks will be mailed by March 27.
As PW reported last fall representatives from Rust Consulting, the firm retained to administer the settlement fund, confirmed that 23,073,840 non-Minnesota customers of Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google, and Sony were eligible to participate in the settlement. That figure represents consumer accounts, not the number of individual consumers, as some consumers have accounts with multiple retailers, or multiple accounts at a single retailer. A representative from Rust Consulting told PW today that the final distribution counts "are not publicly available at this time."
Refunds are issued automatically to consumer accounts. No action was required by consumers unless they opted out of the settlement or chose to receive a check. Administrators have told PW that just 100 consumers opted out of the settlement by last count, and only 48,124 consumers had opted to receive checks instead of credits at the passing of the first deadline, last December.
For an industry that has noticed flattening e-book sales in recent months the funds should juice 2014 sales. Meanwhile, consumers could see another round of refunds in the future, as the case against Apple continues. After being found liable at trial for their role in the alleged price-fixing conspiracy, attorneys for the plaintiff states and consumer class have pegged Apple’s potential damage payout at between $697 million and $840 million, although Apple is vigorously battling any damage award, and has also appealed Cote's finding of liability.