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Mass. consumers to get $2m of proposed $69m e-book pricing settlement

Three book publishers have agreed to pay more than $69 million — including more than $2 million to Massachusetts customers — to resolve allegations that they conspired to fix prices on electronic books, Attorney General Martha Coakley said late Wednesday.

Under the agreement reached with Coakley and 54 attorneys general, Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins Publishers LLC, and Simon & Schuster Inc. will compensate consumers who purchased so-called e-books by these publishers between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012.

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“We found compelling evidence that these companies conspired to fix prices and overcharge consumers for some of the most popular e-book titles,” said Coakley in a statement.

“Today’s settlement paves the way for restitution for consumers harmed by the scheme and restores competition in the e-book market by promoting competition among retailers.”

The proposed settlement in US District Court for the Southern District of New York was reached in conjunction with a civil antitrust lawsuit filed Wednesday by Coakley and other attorneys general.

The suit alleged that the publishers “conspired and agreed to increase retail e-book prices for all consumers” and “agreed to eliminate e-book retail price competition between e-book outlets, such that retail prices to consumers would be the same regardless of the outlet patronized by the consumer.”

Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster also have agreed to change the way they price e-books. This includes terminating contracts with certain retailers such as those with Amazon.com Inc. and Barnes & Noble Inc. that give them the power to reduce e-book prices.

Publishers Macmillan and Penguin have not settled.

Customer payments will begin 30 days after the court approval of the settlement becomes final.

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