Reporting Bill Hudson
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It is the largest U.S. anti-trust class action settlement ever reached in a case involving electronics manufacturers. The $1.1 billion settlement recently announced between the U.S. Department of Justice and foreign manufacturers of flat panel televisions, laptops and computer monitors just might put a little extra money in consumer’s pockets.
The class action case was brought on behalf of consumers in 24 states who purchased flat screen televisions, computer monitors and laptops between Jan. 1, 1999 and Dec. 31, 2006.
Rather than lose money in an industry flooded with flat panels, manufacturers in Japan, Korea and Taiwan gambled and lost with U.S. antitrust laws.
Beginning in 2001, companies like Sharp, Hitachi, Toshiba and Samsung conspired to inflate prices in hopes of stabilizing the flat panel market. An overproduction of the TFT-LCD panels would normally force makers to cut prices in order to slash inventory.
“They met at least once a month and they would agree on prices they would charge and set target prices,” said Gray Plant Mooty attorney, Daniel Shulman.
That’s what is known as “price fixing” and it is against the law.
Shulman worked on the class action suit and helped win the whopping $1.1 billion settlement recently announced.
The settlement pool can be claimed by both individuals and companies who bought a flat panel TV, computer monitor or laptop between the target dates. It’s expected that each claimant will received a minimum of $25 per device purchased but could be entitled to three times that amount, depending on the total number of claims filed by Dec. 6, 2012.
“They (defendants) figured if they can steal $25 from 100 million people they make $250 million that they wouldn’t have otherwise made,” Shulman said. “That’s what they did here in spades.”
Because the defendant companies controlled 90 percent of the flat panel market, nearly all makes of devices using their technology are eligible for the claims.
Shulman said they’re working hard to alert consumers who are unaware they’ve got money coming for a purchase made years ago.
“It’s a very simple process and it doesn’t require a lot of time or effort. We really want people to get their money back,” Shulman said.
One flat panel manufacturer, AUO in Taiwan, did not take part in the settlement and was found guilty in court. Two top AUO executives were sentenced to two years in prison and the company is being fined $500 million.
Deadline for filing claims Dec. 6, 2012.
The claim process is available online at https://lcdclass.com.