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Court Selects Hagens Berman To Represent E-Book Consumers

SEATTLE, Dec. 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- U.S. District Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York yesterday appointed law firm Hagens Berman as lead counsel in a case alleging that several e-book publishers conspired with Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) to fix the price of e-books.

The ruling came after several lawsuits, including Hagens Berman's, were moved from California to New York. The lawsuits will now be consolidated, and attorneys representing consumers are required to file an amended complaint by Jan. 20, 2012.

The case alleges that five of the nation's top publishers, including HarperCollins Publishers, a subsidiary of News Corporation (NASDAQ: NWSA), Hachette Book Group, Macmillan Publishers, Penguin Group Inc., a subsidiary of Pearson PLC (NYSE: PSO) and Simon & Schuster Inc., a subsidiary of CBS (NYSE: CBS), conspired with Apple to illegally fix the price of electronic books, also known as e-books.

The five publishing houses forced Amazon to abandon its discount pricing system and adhere to a new agency model, in which publishers, rather than retailers, set prices, according to the complaint. If Amazon refused to allow publishers to set prices, the publishers threatened to deny the online retail giant permission to sell the e-books.

The complaint, filed on Aug. 9, 2011, alleges that the deal was sparked by Apple, who had adopted a similar pricing model for content on the iTunes store. The company agreed to deals with the publishers to offer e-books under the agency model on the iBookstore and signed "most favored nation" clauses that prevented e-books from being sold elsewhere for a lower price. The goal of these deals, according to the lawsuit, was to prevent rival retailers, especially Amazon, from discounting e-books, and thus undercutting Apple.

Following Amazon's acquiescence to the publishers' demands, the price of e-books reportedly skyrocketed.

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