Amazon Hands Out Refunds Over Apple E-Book Pricing Scandal

Source: Thinkstock

Earlier this week Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) began issuing credits to Kindle customers after reaching settlements with major publishers over the e-book pricing scandal orchestrated by Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) to drive up the cost of e-books for Amazon’s Kindle devices. While Apple is still trying to battle it out in court after being found guilty this summer, the publishers involved elected to settle with Amazon. Now customers who paid too much for Kindle titles due to Apple’s collusion with publishers are getting refunds to their Amazon accounts.

According to Consumerist, Amazon has sent the affected customers an email reading: “Good news! You are entitled to a credit of $X.XX for some of your past Kindle book purchases. The credit results from legal settlements reached with publishers Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Macmillan, and Penguin in antitrust lawsuits filed by State Attorneys General and Class Plaintiffs about the price of eBooks.”

A site dedicated to the case says that anyone who purchased an e-book by any of those publishers between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012, is eligible to be refunded part of the purchase price. And it’s not just Amazon customers who are eligible for the refunds, although Amazon was the clear target in the scheme. E-book purchases from Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS), Kobo, Apple, and Sony (NYSE:SNE) will all be eligible for refunds, as well.

New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced Tuesday that the settlement totals $116 million. “Illegal actions by these publishers forced consumers in New York and across the nation to pay artificially inflated prices for E-books,” Schniederman said in a statement. “Companies engaging in such anticompetitive conduct will be punished — and starting today, those injured by their actions will start to receive full and fair compensation.”

Apple, meanwhile, is still fighting the case tooth and nail. At the end of February the company filed to overturn July’s ruling that found it guilty of conspiring with publishers to fix prices with the goal of boosting sales through its iBookStore, which is much less popular than Amazon’s Kindle Store. Apple argues that its entrance into the e-book scene and different pricing techniques actually stimulated competition in an arena that was completely dominated by Amazon. The Justice Department will file a response to the appeal in May.

Thus far Apple has faced $840 million in antitrust claims from consumers and state attorneys general, who say they can ask for triple the damages because the Department of Justice was able to prove that Apple had orchestrated the price fixing.

When Apple was found guilty of violating antitrust law by U.S. District Judge Denise Cote, the company was forced to operate under strict rules in pricing its e-books and had to hire an external monitor. Apple has complained about monitor Michael Bromwich and even tried to have him suspended as it appeals the guilty verdict. Cote shot down that request earlier this year, but it has been reported that a federal appeals court judge has temporarily removed Bromwich from his position until Apple can bring its appeal before a panel of judges.

If the litigation ever ends, affected e-book buyers could get another refund, this time from Apple instead of the publishers, in the future.

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