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BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Three of the largest book publishers in the United States have agreed to pay consumers more than $69 million for violating antitrust laws. Maryland consumers will receive $1.64 million from the deal.

Maryland’s Attorney General Doug Gansler announced that according to the settlement, Hachette Book Group Inc., Harper Collins Publishers LLC and Simon & Schuster Inc. will pay the settlement for fixing the prices of e-books.

“Collusion by these publishers has cost consumers millions of dollars more for the most popular e-book titles” said Gansler. “While consumers will be reimbursed, this settlement also promotes competition among e-book retailers from here on out.”

When the settlement is approved by the court, each buyer will receive between 25 cents and $1.32 as reimbursement. E-book retailers like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple and Kobo will contact each buyer by e-mail. Customers can choose to receive a check or a credit. The publishers will begin payments 30 days after the court approves the settlement.

The publishers have also agreed to give retailers the freedom to reduce the prices of their e-books. They will also be barred from entering into new agreements that limit retailers’ ability to offer discounts to their customers.

A separate trial for publishers Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC (Macmillan), Penguin Group, Inc. and Apple is scheduled for June 2013.

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