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Intimate Bookshop Files Suit Against B&N, Borders, Amazon
Jim Milliot -- 8/10/98
The Intimate Bookshop filed a class-action lawsuit last week on behalf of independent booksellers against Barnes &Noble, barnesandnoble.com, Borders Group and Amazon.com, charging the companies with antitrust violations that have forced hundreds of independents out of business. In the same complaint, Intimate's lawyer, Carl Person, is seeking to recover damages from Penguin Putnam stemming from its violation of the consent decree prohibiting publishers from offering favorable terms to some accounts and not others (Intimate chose not to take part in the ABA settlement). The lawsuit is also looking to recover damages from HarperCollins, which is trying to enforce a judgment that claims Intimate owes the publisher an unspecified amount of money. The charges against the publishers are not part of the class action.
The lawsuit contends that the major chains c rced publishers into giving them a host of illegal financial incentives, including volume discounts in excess of published schedules, markdown discounts, advertising allowances, shortage/defective allowances, slotting and start-up allowances, endcap positioning and shelf-display allowances, promotional payments and deductions from and renegotiations of unpaid invoices.

The complaint alleges that the illegal payments helped to fuel the growth of the chains, and that their expansion was the main reason why Intimate, owned by Wallace Kuralt, was forced to reduce its operations from 13 stores in North Carolina, Georgia and Washington, D.C., to two, and caused its revenues to fall from $11.5 million to $500,000. In addition to seeking treble damages plus other court costs and attorneys' fees, Intimate is asking the court to order the two chains to close all retail bookstores within 10 miles of any location in which Intimate has or had a store during the last four years.Defendants in the suit had not seen the lawsuit at press time and could not comment.
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