CHICAGO Owners of Amazon.com's Kindle e-readers will receive refunds on past e-book purchases and see e-book prices drop if a judge approves legal settlements with publishers accused of fixing prices, according to the Internet retailer.
Amazon told Kindle owners in emails on Saturday that they could receive a refund of between 30 cents and $1.32 for e-books they bought between April 2010 and May 2012. The books must have been published by three publishers who have agreed to settle a lawsuit that accused them of inflating e-book prices.
The settlements are subject to court approval, and a hearing is scheduled for February.
If approved, the settlements would also limit the publishers' ability to set future e-book prices, which should lead to lower costs for Kindle users, according to Amazon.
"We think these settlements are a big win for customers and look forward to lowering prices on more Kindle books in the future," Amazon told customers in the emails.
Amazon did not immediately respond to questions on Saturday about how many customers could be affected.
The settlements came about after the Justice Department in April accused Apple Inc and five publishers of illegally colluding on prices as part of an effort to fight Amazon's dominance of e-books.
Three of the publishers - News Corp's HarperCollins Publishers Inc, CBS Corp's Simon & Schuster Inc and Lagardere SCA's Hachette Book Group - decided to settle.
Amazon was not a party to this lawsuit.
The three publishers have denied they did anything wrong, but agreed to settle the lawsuit to avoid the cost and risk of a trial, according to the settlement website, ebooksagsettlements.com.
If the court approves the settlements, the publishers will pay for e-book refunds that will be applied automatically to the Amazon.com accounts of eligible customers. Customers can use the refunds to purchase Kindle books or print books or request a check for the amount of the refund.
Electronic books more than doubled in popularity in 2011, with e-book sales making up 15 percent of the market last year, up from 6 percent in 2010, according the Association of American Publishers and the Book Industry Study Group.
While e-books increased in sales power, bringing in more than $2 billion in 2011, the majority of publishers' revenue still came from printed books, at $11.1 billion in 2011.