Bryan Cohen Feb. 13, 2013, 6:45pm

RICHMOND, Va. (Legal Newsline) - Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli announced a $20 million multi-state settlement Monday with a major U.S. book publisher to resolve allegations of price-fixing and collusion in the e-book market.

Virginia and 32 other states reached an agreement in principle with Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC, doing business as Macmillan, to resolve allegations that Macmillan colluded with Apple Inc. and other major publishers to manipulate e-book prices.

Under the terms of the settlement, consumers nationwide will receive $20 million, with Virginians receiving approximately $680,000. Virginians make up approximately 3.4 percent of Macmillan's e-book purchasers in the U.S. and therefore receive approximately 3.4 percent of the settlement.

"We do not want businesses interfering with the free market by illegally conspiring to fix prices," Cuccinelli said. "In this case, the collusion with other publishers increased prices for customers to the tune of tens of millions of dollars nationwide for popular e-book titles. This settlement paves the way for restitution for those consumers and prohibits Macmillan from colluding with other publishers and undermining retail price competition in the e-book market."

The agreement must still be approved by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Upon approval, e-book retailers will have greater freedom to reduce the prices of their titles.

In August, Cuccinelli's office secured an additional $2.3 million worth of restitution for consumers in Virginia as part of an agreement with three other e-book publishers.

The multi-state antitrust action based on the same allegations against Apple Inc. and Penguin Group (USA) Inc. remains pending. A trial on the matter is scheduled for June.

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