Simon & Schuster, Hachette E-Book Accord Wins Approval

A price-fixing settlement between the U.S. government and electronic-book publishers Simon & Schuster, Hachette Book Group Inc. and HarperCollins Publishers LLC won a judge’s approval.

The Justice Department in April sued the three publishers along with Apple Inc., Pearson Plc’s Penguin Group and MacMillan, a unit of Verlagsgruppe Georg von Holtzbrinck GmbH. The government claimed the defendants conspired to fix the price for e-books in violation of U.S. antitrust law.

U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in New York today agreed with the Justice Department that the settlement is in the public interest.

“The government alleges substantial ongoing harm as a result of the settling defendants’ illegal activity,” Cote wrote in an opinion. “E-books consumers should not be forced to wait until after the June 2013 trial to experience the significant anticipated benefits of the decree.”

The settlement, filed the day the Justice Department sued, requires the three publishers to cancel contracts with Inc., Google Inc. and other sellers of e-books that allow the publishers to set prices. The publishers must also refrain for two years from signing contracts that would prevent retailers from setting prices, according to the agreement.

Public Opposition

Members of the public submitted 868 comments on the proposed agreement, more than 90 percent of which opposed it, Cote said in the opinion.

Last week, 49 states and five U.S. territories said they had reached a $70 million settlement with Simon & Schuster, Hachette and HarperCollins on behalf of consumers.

Gina Talamona, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department’s antitrust division, said, “The department is pleased the court found the proposed settlement to be in the public interest and that consumers will start to benefit from the restored competition in this important industry.”

The case is U.S. v. Apple Inc., 12-cv-02826, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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