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N.D. customers due almost $400,000 in refunds from e-book price fixing settlement

BISMARCK – North Dakotans who bought certain e-books will soon start receiving nearly $390,000 in refunds through the partial settlement of a price-fixing lawsuit, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem announced Tuesday.

Stenehjem and attorneys general from 32 other states brought the lawsuit in federal court against Apple Inc. and five of the six largest e-book publishers in the country. The lawsuit claimed they conspired with each other to eliminate retail price competition in order to fix and raise e-book prices in violation of antitrust laws, according to a news release from Stenehjem’s office.

While denying they did anything wrong, the five publishers – Hachette Book Group Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC, Simon & Schuster Inc., Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC doing business as MacMillan, and Penguin Group (USA) Inc. – agreed to settle the claims against them for a total of $166 million, of which North Dakota residents will receive about $389,800.

Apple declined to settle, and the case against the company is pending.

Distribution of the settlement payments was expected to start on or around Tuesday.

The amount of the individual refunds is based on the number of e-books the consumer purchased between April 1, 2010, and May 21, 2012. The attorney general’s office advised those who bought e-books during that period to check their email for messages from their retailer or the settlement administrator regarding the refund.

The settlement was approved Dec. 6.

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