Consumers to Get More Than $1 Billion From Settlement in LCD Price-Fixing Scam

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JD Hancock via Flickr
Attorney Generals, avenging our wallets one LCD screen at a time
Did you ever get a strange feeling that you might be getting ripped off when buying your last flat-screen TV, monitor, or laptop? Well, that's probably because you did.

Attorney General Kamala Harris announced today that her office, along with seven other attorneys general, got a $571-million settlement from three flat-screen LCD producers that were fixing prices.

So if you paid for a Toshiba, LG, or AU Optronics device with an LCD screen, now you know for certain that those companies screwed you over. But don't worry, the AGs are avenging your bank accounts.
The companies agreed to pay $543.5 million in damages and $27.5 million in civil penalties under California's Unfair Competition Law. In December 2011, seven other LCD manufacturers were caught price-fixing, which resulted in a $538.5 million settlement, plus $14.7 million in civil penalties. This brings the total payment in price-fixing punishments to $1.1 billion.

This chunk of change will "be divided among 24 states and the District of Columbia," the Department of Justice reports.

The Attorney General has been after these price-fixers for a while. In October 2010, Harris' office filed a class-action lawsuit against 10 companies alleging they had conspired from 1999 to 2006 to fix LCD-screen prices, resulting in higher costs for electronics.

"The price-fixing by these 10 companies broke the law and short-changed California consumers," said Harris. "This settlement brings justice to our consumers, protects companies that follow the law, and ends the pernicious practice of price-fixing by these manufacturers."

The 10 companies that plotted for your money include Toshiba, LG, and AU Optronics, which settled today, along with the seven that settled in December, including Chi Mei, HannStar, Hitachi, Samsung, and Sharp.

This is not the first time these companies have run into price-fixing snags. In 2008, LG companies had to pay $400 million in federal fines for price-fixing. This past March, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California convicted two AU Optronics companies on federal charges of price-fixing.

What happened to learning from their mistakes?

Not only did the attorney generals knock the price-fixers; they're also giving us some of our money back. "California consumers and government entities will receive a significant portion of the more than $1 billion settlements," Harris reported in a press release today. After they determine our percentage, California consumers and businesses can file claims for monetary relief at the Attorney General's website or here.

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