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Judge allows EA price-fixing anti-trust lawsuit

Madden publisher accused of artificially increasing game prices

A class action anti-trust lawsuit against Electronic Arts, that claims the company illegally raised the price of Madden videogames after it obtained exclusive rights to the NFL licence, is to go ahead in the US.

A district judge has certified the class action, which covers any Madden NFL title released by EA during or after 2005. As a result any American consumer that bought one of the games during this period is able to register as a plaintiff.

The case is expected to go on to become a jury trial, with the main allegation being that once EA acquired the exclusive licence they then inflated the price of games by up to 70 per cent.

The complaint does acknowledge that Take-Two's NFL2K5 was sold at a budget price in 2004, of just $19.95. This forced EA into a temporary price war where Madden NFL 2005 was sold for a lower price of $29.95.

EA's lawyers will argue that the subsequent rise in price, once the exclusive licence was obtained, was merely a return to previous industry standard levels. The question of whether EA's use of the licence constitutes unfair competition appears to be of only secondary importance to the plaintiffs.

"Consumers now have a legal standing to demand that EA refund consumers millions of dollars it made from Madden NFL and other sports titles through what we contend was an illegal price-gouging scheme," said lawyer Steve Berman.

"We believe EA forced consumers to pay an artificial premium on Madden NFL videogames," he added. "We intend to prove that EA could inflate prices on their sports titles because these exclusive licenses restrained trade and competition for interactive sports software."

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