Amazon Accused Of Audiobook Monopoly In Author Class Action

Amazon Audiobook class action (AMZN.O) faces a proposed class action, with author Christine DeMaio, who publishes under the name CD Reiss, claiming the company has monopolized the retail market for audiobooks, leading authors to overpay for distribution. In the lawsuit filed in Seattle federal court, DeMaio accuses Amazon of violating U.S. antitrust law by charging higher distribution fees for writers who do not exclusively use its platform.

DeMaio’s attorney, Steve Berman, asserted that authors deserve “a fair price for their work and not to be the victims of Amazon’s abusive monopoly practices.” The lawsuit alleges that Amazon uses exclusivity agreements to “lock up content,” impairing the ability of rivals to compete and affecting billions of dollars in audiobook sales. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sales of audiobooks have steadily risen in recent years, reaching nearly $2 billion in 2022, according to the lawsuit. Amazon acquired digital audiobooks provider Audible in 2008 for about $300 million. The lawsuit claims Audible is the world’s largest audiobook retailer, accounting for more than 60% of domestic purchases, compared with about 20% for Apple.

The lawsuit seeks more than $5 million in damages and class action status for thousands of authors and rights holders who paid a distribution fee to Amazon of at least 60% on sales. The complaint states that this fee increases to 75% for “non-exclusive” audiobooks sold on Amazon and elsewhere.

Berman’s law firm, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, is also leading a consumer antitrust lawsuit accusing Amazon of artificially inflating ebook prices on its platform. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission last year accused Amazon of antitrust violations, claiming it punished sellers for offering better prices on other platforms and charged costly fees to merchants. Amazon has denied the claims in both the ebook and FTC cases.