Beginning next week, checks will be in the mail for consumers affected by an elaborate price-fixing conspiracy by LCD manufacturers, Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Thursday.
A total of $41.1 million is on its way to 24,632 consumers and businesses in all 39 Washington counties, including 7,574 claims in King County.
The recovery is among the largest in the AGO Antitrust Division’s history. The scheme by LCD manufacturers drove up costs on TVs, monitors, laptops and cellphones.
“This conspiracy affected millions of products Washingtonians purchased over a period of eight years,” Ferguson said in a media release. “This step brings closure and a measure of justice to consumers who were harmed by this scheme. When powerful interests don’t play by the rules, my office will be there to hold them accountable.”
Rather than participate in a multi-state case, the Attorney General’s Office chose to pursue an individual case in order to get a better deal for Washington consumers. The recovery in the state’s individual lawsuit may be as much as 30 percent higher than what Washington might have received as part of the multi-state settlement.
On average, each consumer will receive about $203. The total varies based on the number and type of items claimed.
Claimants will receive:
• $72.19 per LCD television, up to 10,000 units
• $23.95 per flat-screen monitor, up to 10,000 units
• $48.03 per notebook computer, up to 10,000 units
• $6 per color-screen iPod
• $6 per color-screen cellphone
In total, checks for more than 1 million items will be mailed: 232,224 televisions, 510,134 monitors, 242,395 notebook computers, 17,343 iPods and 68,227 cellphones.
Consumers who filed a valid claim can expect a check sometime in the next few weeks. Those who filed a deficient claim that did not qualify for payment have already been notified.
For eight years, consumers in Washington and throughout the world were significantly overcharged every time they bought a product with a liquid crystal display, or LCD, screen because of a conspiracy by the world’s largest LCD manufacturers.
For some products, this scheme may have increased the price consumers paid by as much as 20 percent.
According to the AG’s complaint filed in 2010, LCD manufacturers participated in cartel meetings in which they exchanged price information and agreed to fix prices and manipulate the supply of LCD panels to artificially increase prices.
The earliest meeting occurred over a round of golf in Taiwan in 1998, where the LCD manufacturers met to discuss concerns over increased competition in the industry.
This led to regular gatherings, known as “crystal meetings,” where the LCD manufacturers met to fix the prices on LCD panel prices by exchanging confidential price and shipment information.
They agreed that rather than compete on price, they would fix LCD panel prices and restrict the supply to artificially increase prices.
This industry-wide collusion continued until 2006.
In May 2015, AG Ferguson recovered $63 million from the nine LCD manufacturers who participated in the price-fixing scheme. A total of $41.1 million will be returned to consumers, another $6 million will go to state agencies affected by the scheme, and the remainder will cover the costs of the case and fund antitrust efforts in Washington.
In March 2016, a claims process began for consumers and businesses, which closed Sept. 30, 2016. Once the claims period closed, the claims administrator, AB Data, began the lengthy process of auditing the claims. This includes identifying deficient claims, requesting additional documentation, and identifying fraudulent claims. Nearly 1.5 million claims were submitted for approximately $100 million.
Checks will be mailed out within the next week, and should arrive with claimants in the next few weeks. People with questions about their claims should contact AB Data at 866-778-9468 or firstname.lastname@example.org.