In separate motions this week, Amazon and the Big Five publishers asked a federal court to dismiss the latest iteration of a potential class-action price-fixing claim filed against them on behalf of indie booksellers.
According to court filings, the booksellers’ Amended Complaint, which was filed in July, accuses Amazon and the publishers of illegal price discrimination under the Robinson-Patman Act. But in their motions to dismiss, both Amazon and the publishers insist there is no illegal agreement to fix or otherwise restrain prices, and that the amended complaint is legally deficient and must be tossed.
“The Complaint recites that Amazon is a leading book retailer, takes issue with ordinary price competition, and tries to illogically and conclusorily claim that Publisher Defendants conspired with each other and with Amazon to confer a monopoly on Amazon, despite Publisher Defendants resisting Amazon’s growing position in the market for decades,” read the publishers motion to dismiss. “This is simply not plausible. After realizing its originally pled Sherman Act conspiracy claims had no basis, Plaintiff tried to repackage them in its Complaint and bolster them with a price discrimination claim under the Robinson-Patman Act. The Complaint, however, is fatally deficient under either statute and must be dismissed.”
In its motion to dismiss, Amazon lawyers also insist that there is no conspiracy with the publishers, no evidence of illegal collusion, and that its bargaining for lower print book prices is simply good business—and good for consumers.
“Bargaining between buyers and sellers is one of the most commonplace, precompetitive actions that can occur in any market,” the Amazon brief stated. “As the Supreme Court has stressed repeatedly, it would do great damage to competition and consumers alike if the [Robinson-Patman Act] were misconstrued as having outlawed competitive bargaining.”
The suit was first filed in March, 2021, when Evanston, Ill.-based Indie bookseller Bookends & Beginnings teamed up with the law firm currently leading a sprawling class action price-fixing suit against Amazon and the Big Five publishers in the e-book market to file an antitrust lawsuit on behalf of a potential class of booksellers accusing Amazon and the Big Five publishers (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and Penguin Random House) of a conspiracy to restrain price competition in the retail and online print trade book market.