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$19 million settlement proposed in NYC charter bus class action

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Riders of two New York City tour bus companies have proposed a $19 million settlement to end a class-action lawsuit that claimed the businesses joined forces to run an illegal monopoly, court documents showed.

Twin America LLC - a joint venture of former rivals Coach USA Inc and CitySights LLC, formed in March 2009 - was accused by riders of overcharging its passengers, according to the proposed settlement filed in Manhattan federal court late Tuesday.

The suit said the company was able to fix prices as much as 17 percent above the prior market rate after partnering, overcharging passengers by $5 or more. The U.S. Department of Justice and the New York State Attorney General have also filed lawsuits against the companies.

"Since entering the agreement and ceasing to compete nearly four years ago, defendants have successfully fixed the price of 'hop-on, hop-off' bus tours in New York City," the complaint said.

A spokesman for Twin America confirmed the company had reached the settlement and that it had not admitted any wrongdoing, but declined further comment.

Coach USA and City Sights both run open-topped, double-decker buses that take tourists to more than 40 stops, including Times Square, the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center site.

The proposed settlement estimated that the class included roughly 3.9 million people, a number it said could grow. The New York State Attorney General estimated that the market for hop-on, hop-off bus tours was worth $100 million in the city, with some 2 million visitors riding the buses each year.

(Reporting by Curtis Skinner; Editing by Scott Malone and Gunna Dickson)

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