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A Seattle law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit accusing Apple and five book publishers of engaging in price fixing around sales of electronic books. The suit, filed today in U.S. District Court in Northern California, alleges that Apple and HarperCollins Publishers, Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Group Inc. and Simon & Schuster “colluded” on book prices in order to force Amazon.com to “abandon its pro-consumer discount pricing.”

“Fortunately for the publishers, they had a co-conspirator as terrified as they were over Amazon’s popularity and pricing structure, and that was Apple,” said Steve Berman, attorney representing consumers and founding partner of Hagens Berman. “We intend to prove that Apple needed a way to neutralize Amazon’s Kindle before its popularity could challenge the upcoming introduction of the iPad, a device Apple intended to compete as an e-reader.”

In a press release, Berman, a class-action specialist, continued:

“As a result of the pricing conspiracy, prices of e-books have exploded, jumping as much as 50 percent. When an e-book version of a best-seller costs close to – or even more than – its hard-copy counterpart, it doesn’t take a forensic economist to see that this is evidence of market manipulation.”

The suit also notes that Amazon’s pricing “threatened to disrupt the publishers’ long-established brick-and-mortar model faster than the publishers were willing to accept.”

You can read the entire press release and see a copy of the suit here.

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