NEW YORK, Aug 24 (Reuters) - A federal judge granted final
approval to Sirius XM Radio Inc's settlement of a class-action
lawsuit accusing the satellite radio company of abusing its
monopoly power by illegally raising prices for subscribers.
The accord calls for Sirius XM to forego about $180 million
of fees and hold steady or lower base prices for an estimated
14 million subscribers in 2011. Sirius XM agreed not to impose
a $2 a month price rise that was to take effect this month and
also agreed to lock in other fees, court papers show.
Home to programming, including "shock jock" Howard Stern
and Major League Baseball, New York-based Sirius XM was created
when Sirius Satellite Radio Inc bought its only rival, XM
Satellite Holdings Inc, on July 29, 2008.
In a Wednesday order approving the settlement, U.S.
District Judge Harold Baer in Manhattan turned aside objections
from many subscribers, saying the accord's terms reflect
"sufficient fairness, adequacy and reasonableness."
He said it was "questionable" whether subscribers could
have proven antitrust violations at a trial, given the Justice
Department and Federal Communications Commission had approved
Baer also said the settlement and its $13 million of legal
fees and costs for subscribers' lawyers was not a "shakedown,"
as some subscribers contended.
"Nothing suggests that class counsel here went beyond what
the law allows," he said.
Subscribers accused Sirius XM of illegally imposing fees on
Internet streaming, music royalties and additional radios, even
as it complied with regulatory requirements by holding base
prices steady. They said these boosted a typical subscriber's
monthly fees 40 percent to $27.88 from $19.94.
The case is Blessing et al v. Sirius XM Radio Inc, U.S.
District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 09-10035.
For the plaintiff consumers: Grant & Eisenhofer; Milberg;
Cook, Hall & Lampros as class counsel.
For Sirius XM: Jones Day.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel)
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