It’s game on for a class-action lawsuit against Apple and several major publishers accused of colluding to illegally fix prices on e-books to undercut Amazon. Today, a U.S. District Court judge denied court petitions from Apple and publishers to dismiss the lawsuit.
The suit was filed on behalf of e-book customers forced to collectively pay “tens of millions of dollars for their favorite titles,” according to a release from Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro. Steve Berman is lead counsel repping consumers in the suit.
In April, the U.S. Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Apple and the publishers, citing much of the same evidence that the companies were “conspiring to wrestle control of the e-book market from Amazon.”
While three publishers — HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette — have settled, Apple, Penguin and Macmillan have said they will fight the Justice Department lawsuit in court.
The consumer lawsuit accuses Apple and publishers, including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Hachette, Penguin and Macmillan, of fixing prices in response to Amazon’s growing Kindle e-reader sales and discounted e-books.
While Apple and the publishers work this out in court, it leaves Amazon free to build its Kindle and e-book sales. In April, Amazon said in response to the DOJ settlement: “This is a big win for Kindle owners, and we look forward to being allowed to lower prices on more Kindle books.”
Of course, this news lands in a publishing business that continues to feel the sales crunch of Amazon’s presence in the market. While lower prices arguably benefit consumers and move more content for Amazon, not everyone is happy about this lawsuit, as cited in this LA Times article. Some in the publishing industry fear that it will clear the way for Amazon to continue to dominate book-selling, which will reduce competition and diversity of offerings.
One thing is certain: Digital sales will be key to a company’s health going forward in the e-book market, as digital sales grew more than 1000 percent from 2008 to 2011, according to the Association of American Publishers.