CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Three of the nation's largest publishers will pay West Virginians who purchased electronic books from them up to $300,000 to resolve antitrust claims of a conspiracy to fix the prices of e-books.
Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have agreed to pay more than $69 million to consumers across the country as part of a settlement reached by West Virginia Attorney General Darrell McGraw and other attorneys general across the United States.
The publishers will compensate customers who purchased e-books from April 1, 2010, through May 21, 2012.
In April, the federal government and several states, including West Virginia, sued five major publishers and Apple, claiming the companies conspired to artificially raise the price of bestselling e-books.
The lawsuit, originally filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, alleged that e-book prices were boosted from $9.99 to $12.99 and $14.99.
The book publishers were worried because Amazon --- the biggest bookseller on the Internet -- was selling bestselling books for $9.99, and they were concerned it would negatively affect their hardcover book sales, West Virginia Assistant Attorney General Douglas Davis had said in May.
On Thursday, Davis was pleased about the outcome.
"This is good news," he said. "We're excited that we were able to get it done."
Davis said the court still has to approve the restitution process. The $300,000 in compensation that West Virginians are expected to receive from the settlement is not set in stone, he said.
The court, for example, might not agree how people should go about getting money back, Davis said.
The proposal suggests giving a credit to customers who purchased e-books, since most of them used a website, Davis said. They could use the credit toward future purchases on that website, he said.