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E-book buyers getting settlement credits this week

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ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) -

 

Buyers of electronic books will get account credits this week from five publishers who reached settlements after states alleged they colluded to raise prices, New York's attorney general said Tuesday.

The $166 million national settlements were approved Dec. 6 and cover claims from April 1, 2010, to May 21, 2012. Buyers who bought certain e-books from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo or Apple will automatically get partial refund credits in their e-book accounts. Notification emails to eligible buyers were going out starting Tuesday.

The publishers are Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin Group and Holtzbrinck doing business as Macmillan. They denied wrongdoing but agreed to the settlement to avoid going to trial.

Refund amounts are $3.06 for New York Times best-sellers bought during the period and 73 cents for any other book.

"Illegal actions by these publishers forced consumers in New York and across the nation to pay artificially inflated prices for e-books," New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday. "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."

HarperCollins and Penguin Group declined to comment. The other three publishers did not immediately reply Tuesday to requests for comment.

Thirty-three states accused the publishers of collusion, though the settlement covers all U.S. buyers. About $11.5 million is expected to go to buyers in New York, according to Schneiderman's office.

The settlements in federal court in Manhattan prohibit the publishers from continuing so-called agency agreements, in which publishers rather than retailers set prices for each title.

Buyers of e-books from Sony will automatically receive refund checks in the mail. Those who bought from other retailers and who filed a timely claim with the settlement administrator will get refund checks in the mail.

A judge last year at trial found Apple Inc. colluded with publishers to raise e-book prices. A second trial to decide damages is expected this year.

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