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Affected by ebook price-fixing? Amazon has a few shiny pennies for you

Publishers' settlement cash will go to customers

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Amazon has gleefully started contacting US ebook customers about the funds they're entitled to claim after three publishers settled price-fixing lawsuits.

The Kindle-maker told customers that they'd be getting partial refunds of $0.30 to $1.32 for each eligible ebook bought between April 2010 and May 2012.

Ebooks will be eligible if they were published by Hachette, Simon & Schuster or HarperCollins, the three publishers that settled the case, leaving Apple, Penguin and Macmillan still fighting on.

"We have good news," Amazon crowed. "You are entitled to a credit for some of your past e-book purchases as a result of legal settlements between several major e-book publishers and the Attorneys General of most US states and territories, including yours."

The refunds aren't really going to cover the difference between a lot of the books' prices and the amount customers would have paid if Amazon was pricing them, but the affected punters should be in line for a few cents an ebook - providing the settlements get approved next February. The etailer said it would shove the compensation into folks' Amazon accounts or they could request a cheque.

"In addition to the account credit, the settlements impose limitations on the publishers' ability to set e-book prices," Amazon gloated. "We think these settlements are a big win for customers and look forward to lowering prices on more Kindle books in the future."

Antitrust cases against Apple and the five publishers have included class action lawsuits and regulator clashes both in the US and in Europe. At issue were Apple's agency contracts, which allowed publishers to set the prices while the fruity firm took a percentage cut. Before Apple got into ebooks, the tomes were sold like the paper version, bought from the publisher at cost and then sold for whatever the seller wanted.

Since Amazon was selling the ebooks at cost or lower to gobble up market share, the publishers pounced on the agency contracts and made them the norm for ebooks. This would have been fine – the issue at hand is the allegation that some of the vendors colluded with each other on what the ebooks' new prices should be. ®

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