Bookstore company sued for overcharging

Two students in Florida are suing Follett, the book company which manages the GW Bookstore in the Marvin Center, for money they claim the chain has unrightfully earned from used book sales.

Students Thomas Rebman and Danny Brandner of Daytona Beach Community College filed the lawsuit Sept. 26 against their school and Follett Corporation, which runs bookstores in more than 750 universities across the United States and Canada. The suit claims Follett violated its contract with the Florida college by over-pricing used textbooks above 75 percent of the new selling price, and paying 50 percent below retail price when buying back books from students.

Recently, the students’ attorney, Marc Wites, filed a motion to make the lawsuit a class action, which would mean the company would be forced to compensate every student who lost money. Wites said this type of suit is necessary because the violation may add up to only to a few pennies per customer.

“The whole premise behind the class-action law suit is that a large number of persons with relatively small claims are affected, and in the aggregate, it is a significant offense,” Wites said.

He said most universities, including GW, have similar contracts with Follett that have been violated.

“Students nationwide would potentially benefit in terms of the establishment of a monetary fund for claims as well as a requirement that the business change its practices for the future,” he added.

The over-charging allegation comes from a company practice of rounding up sale prices to the nearest quarter and rounding down buy-back prices in the same manner.

Follett has filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the plaintiffs are not third-party beneficiaries. Follett spokeswoman Pam Goodman said the students claims are not true.

“Follett believes this suit is without legal basis,” she said. “Both Daytona Beach Community College and Follett conducted audits, and the results of these audits confirmed that Follett is abiding by the terms of its agreement with Daytona Beach Community College.”

In his response to the motion to dismiss, Wites states that the defendants “misread and ignore (their) detailed and well-pled allegations.”

GW freshman Stephen Lippens said Follett’s practice of rounding prices to their benefit wasn’t a big deal.

“I wouldn’t complain about it,” he said. “They make a profit and we only lose a few dollars.”

Senior Ashley Snyder said if the suit does amount to a large sum of money it’s worth it. “If it’s going to be a $5 difference I’m not going to go protest. It all adds up, but I think it depends because sometimes it’s just a $1 or $2 difference.”

Snyder added that if students are upset about the prices at the bookstore they should simply shop elsewhere. She said buying books or selling them somewhere else is sometimes hard, however.

“I think (the bookstore) is totally taking advantage of students.”

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