Amazon first to give customers credit as part of Apple e-book conspiracy

In a letter to customers Tuesday, Amazon told some of its customers who bought e-books between 2010 and 2012 that they are due some money. My family got an Amazon letter saying we had an $18.27 credit.

Amazon appears to be the first retailer to issue credits to customers as part of a settlement involving five publishers, states attorney general and plaintiffs cases.

While the Internet retailing giant named the five publishers who are paying the money, it didn’t mention its fierce competitor, Apple, who was, as the Department of Justice said, the hub of the wheel of the price fixing conspiracy. Apple is fighting a court decision last year that it broke antitrust law.

When the publishers raised the price of their e-books as part of the roll out of Apple’s new digital iBookstore, they raised the price as well for Amazon customers.

But Amazon is a winner by being able to make customers happy with the credit, says MarketWatch. It quotes an e-book distrubutor Mark Coker that “Amazon profited from the original sale of the full-priced e-books for which the publishers got in trouble, and now they’re profiting again when consumers redeem the credits.”

Barnes & Noble Nook customers will see rebates as well, reports GigaOm, which says customers’ rebates are contingent on whether the book they bought became a bestseller:

Anybody who bought an ebook from Hachette, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, Penguin or Macmillan between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012 gets a credit of $3.17 if that book was a New York Times bestseller at any point in its publishing history and a credit of $0.73 if the book was never a NYT bestseller.

In a recent speech, Bill Baer, the assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice’s antitrust division defended the work of the government in fighting e-book price setting:

Current pricing data shows that since injunctions against Apple and its book publisher co-conspirators were entered, the average price of the top 25 best-selling e-books dropped from around $11 to around $6.47 Further, our state attorneys general partners secured settlements with the publishers that will return more than $160 million to e-books consumers through seamless credits to their accounts.

Photo: Steve Jobs, former chief executive of Apple. (Associated Press archives)

Michelle Quinn Michelle Quinn (139 Posts)

Michelle Quinn is a Business Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. Prior to her current role, she was the Silicon Valley correspondent at Politico covering tech policy and politics. She has also covered the tech industry at the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle. She was a blogger for the New York Times.