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In a first-of-its-kind lawsuit that could affect thousands of college students who think they are overcharged for textbooks, two Daytona Beach Community College students have sued the nation's largest collegiate-bookstore chain and their school.
The class-action suit, filed in Orlando's federal court, alleges unfair and illegal pricing practices and seeks to recover at least $5 million in damages. It accuses the Follett Higher Education Group and DBCC of overcharging students pennies on each used-book sale and underpaying them when buying books back.
Though that may amount to only a few bucks each semester, the students argue that, when multiplied by thousands of students at each of the company's more than 750 bookstores, it adds up to millions.
Co-plaintiffs Thomas Rebman and Danny Brandner also say the college is "complicit" in the textbook company's actions because through DBCC's contract with Follett, it receives up to 10.5 percent of all bookstore revenues annually. In a recent 12-month period, the college reported collecting at least $400,000 in commissions from Follett's operations on the school's five campuses.
"This isn't about me or Mr. Brandner," Rebman said. "It's that still to this day, students are overcharged . . ., and they [DBCC administrators] refuse to enforce the contract."
The suit -- filed in late September -- is unique, according to attorneys and industry experts, and may have implications for thousands of students nationwide if a judge allows it to go forward as a class action.
Textbook prices have rankled college students for years. Student-government coalitions and advocacy groups in 14 states launched a campaign in 2003 that included a push to persuade colleges to negotiate better prices with book publishers.