A federal court this week agreed to consolidate multiple consumer class action lawsuits against Amazon and the Big Five publishers, and named Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro interim lead counsel in the action.
The order comes after Hagens Berman filed the first suit against Amazon and the publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House) in January, alleging a conspiracy to fix e-book prices. As is common in consumer class action cases, that iniital action was swiftly followed by a spate of copycat cases, which will now be merged into a single action.
"The court concludes that such appointment will aid in achieving efficiency and economy in what is likely to be expensive and complicated litigation and that such appointment will enhance fairness to all parties concerned as well as the proposed classes," wrote judge Gregory Woods in a brief order, approving an unopposed motion.
The suits make identical claims, specifically that Amazon and the publishers' use of various Most Favored Nations clauses in their contracts is evidence of an agreement "to prevent competitive pricing," causing consumers "to overpay when they purchase e-books from the Big Five through an eBook retailer that competes with Amazon."
Among the relief requested, the suit seeks monetary reimbursement for consumers who purchased e-books through Amazon’s competitors, damages, and injunctive relief that would require Amazon and the publishers to “stop enforcing anti-competitive price restraints.”
Meanwhile, Hagens Berman last month filed a separate suit on behalf of indie booksellers, which accuses Amazon and the publishers of a conspiracy to restrain price competition in the retail and online print trade book market, with Evanston, Ill.-based Indie bookseller Bookends & Beginnings the initial named plaintiff on behalf of a potential class of booksellers.
In 2011, Hagens Berman was the first to file a price fixing case against Apple and a group of five major publishers, which was also swiftly followed by about a dozen follow-on cases that were consolidated into a single action, with Hagens Berman as lead counsel. Eventually, a group of 33 states and the Department of Justice also filed suit, leading to settlements with the publishers in 2012 and a verdict against Apple in 2013.