Remember 2013, when the US Department of Justice and 33 states prevailed in an antitrust suit against Apple and five major publishers? Back then, a common complaint from Apple fans was, “What about Amazon?” Our comprehensive coverage in “Explaining the Apple Ebook Price Fixing Suit” (10 July 2013) pointed out that the case was about Apple’s behavior, not Amazon’s, while also explaining Amazon’s instigating role and suggesting that the online bookseller might face its own antitrust charges.
If history is wont to repeat itself, it may be Amazon’s turn in the hot seat. In 2011, the Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman filed the class-action lawsuit against Apple and five publishers that eventually morphed into the DoJ’s ebook price-fixing antitrust suit. Publishers Weekly is reporting that Hagens Berman has now filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon. The suit names the Big Five publishers—Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster—not as defendants, but as “co-conspirators” in an alleged scheme to keep ebook prices artificially high. There’s no way to know if this case will turn into a larger antitrust suit, but given modern concerns about Big Tech, it’s not inconceivable.