Wash. State Seeks Money For Consumers Who Paid Inflated Prices For TVs, Laptops

May 12, 2014

You could eventually be getting money back for that flat screen TV you paid too much for a decade ago.

That’s the goal of a long-running pric- fixing suit against the manufacturers who make LCD display screens for everything, from televisions to laptops.

The alleged price fixing took place between 1998 and 2006 and involved a number of big name electronics companies, including Hitachi Displays, LTD, Samsung Electronics Co. and Toshiba Corp.

An antitrust criminal probe by the U.S. Justice Department has already resulted in guilty pleas and almost $900 million in fines. But Washington state wants compensation for people who paid inflated prices for consumer electronics and has filed its own civil suit under the state’s Consumer Protection Act.

Washington Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Mark, who’s in the anti-trust division, says we have very strong consumer protection laws in this state.  He says there’s evidence that executives with the LCD screen manufacturing companies would meet in casual settings to talk about prices.

"Sometimes they did occur in restaurants, sometimes they occurred in other settings, and we allege that they were highly organized," Mark said.

For example, allegations are that the executives would do what are called round robin meetings, meaning they’d do a series of one-on-one meetings in different restaurants in order to disguise what was really going on.

This case has dragged on for years. It concerns electronics purchased more than eight years ago. The latest tussle was over whether Washington had a right to pursue civil action in state court against foreign electronics companies, with no base of operations in the state.

A Washington state appeals court just ruled that the state does have that right. A court date for a trial is scheduled for a year from now.