Lawsuit Alleges Defendants Participated In “Inclusive Access” Conspiracy Requiring Students To Obtain Course Materials In Online Format And From Their Official Campus Bookstore, Thereby Preventing Competition From Other Online Bookstores and Sellers

Kehoe Law Firm, P.C. is making consumers aware that on April 22, 2020, a class action lawsuit was filed in United States District Court, District of New Jersey, against “the three dominant publishers of college and graduate school textbooks” and the “two dominant operators of official on-campus bookstores.” The named Defendants in the complaint are Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC, Barnes & Noble Education, Inc., Cengage Learning, Inc., Follett Higher Education Group, McGraw Hill LLC, and Pearson Education, Inc. 

According to the complaint:

The Defendants, the dominant publishers of college textbooks and dominant retail chains operating on-campus college bookstores, entered into [an] “Inclusive Access” conspiracy . . . in order to monopolize the market for sales of course materials in any courses and on any colleges in which the Inclusive Access policy applies. Inclusive Access requires students to obtain their course materials only in an online format and only from their official oncampus bookstore, and not from any other source, thereby preventing the Defendants from facing competition from new print textbooks, used print textbooks, and other online sources, and also from off-campus and online bookstores and sellers. Defendants’ monopolizing the market for the sale of course materials in Inclusive Access courses has allowed them to charge higher prices for those course materials with no legitimate justification, to the detriment of college and graduate students. 

Inclusive Access increases students’ costs and eliminates their choices in order to increase the profits of textbook publishers and on-campus college bookstore retail chains. As one recent analysis found, ‘[p]hrases like ‘inclusive access’ may sound great for students. In reality, publishers reap the benefits while students have fewer options than ever to save money. These programs create a virtual monopoly, undercutting academic freedom and low-cost options.’ [Emphasis added.]

Inclusive Access, according to the complaint, “. . . does not have any advantages for students. Students pay higher prices, are forced to purchase electronic materials even if they prefer print, and they receive access to online materials with an expiration date as opposed to being able to save course materials for future reference or sell them for money after the class is over. Instructors have to waste class time explaining how to use the online materials, and technical problems or broken Internet connections can result in students losing access to the materials.”

Further, the complaint alleges that “the effect of Inclusive Access is to exclude any competition for textbook purchases by eliminating the secondary market and eliminating other sources for students to purchase the Inclusive Access textbooks – students’ only option is mandated purchases of Inclusive Access materials from the Publisher Defendants and (at the majority of campuses where Retailer Defendants operate the official on-campus bookstore) the Retailer Defendants.”

Are you a college or graduate student who was required to purchase textbooks or course materials through Inclusive Access?

College and graduate students who had to purchase textbooks or course materials through Inclusive Access are encouraged to contact Kehoe Law Firm, P.C. to discuss potential legal claims.

Kehoe Law Firm, P.C.