The money is mine and it can be yours, too.
I just applied for a $20 slice of an $80 million class-action suit to compensate Canadian buyers for price fixing on electronics products.
In a few minutes, I filled out the online claim form, submitted it electronically and received a confirmation by email, just as the 30-second TV commercials said.
“Canada: between 1999 and 2002, people weren’t aware that they were paying too much for their electronic devices. Some memory chip manufacturers reportedly agreed to price fix. A class-action lawsuit was filed and a settlement was reached.
“If you purchased a computer, printer, game console or any other device with a memory chip between 1999 and 2002, you can now get your money back. Simply visit themoneyismine.ca and get what is owed to you.”
No receipts are required. Eligible applicants will receive at least $20 and you may receive much more if you bought electronic devices containing DRAM (dynamic random access memory) for manufacturing, resale or purposes other than personal use.
Don’t get too excited. The money could take a long time to arrive. Claims may be prorated – or scaled down – based on the total value of claims submitted.
“Accurate claims processing takes time and your patience is appreciated. We are hoping to mail out cheques in the fall of 2015,” the website says.
An administrator has to evaluate claims, complete appeals and obtain court authorization to pay the class members. Class-action payments typically occur more than a year after the claims deadline (June 23, 2015, in this case), according to my confirmation email. So, the cheque may not come in the mail for more than a year.
Jonathan Foreman is a lawyer at Harrison Pensa LLP in London, Ont., and a spokesman for four Canadian law firms that won the class-action suit.
“We nearly lost the case twice over the past 10 years,” he said. “This is a big win in the societal sense.”
Consumers will end up with $56 to $57 million of the $80 million settlement after the other costs have been paid (lawyers, claims administrator (NPT RicePoint), marketers, publicists and media partners). The distribution scheme took two years to work out.
Here are few interesting facts that came out of my interview with Foreman.
DRAM is the workhouse of memory chips. Most electronic devices purchased during that three-year period qualify for claims, including personal digital assistants and MP3 players.
Canada’s Competition Bureau did not pursue regulatory action against chip manufacturers for price fixing, as did government agencies in the United States and Europe. As a result, U.S. consumers were offered a $10 minimum recovery in a $310 million settlement, while Canadians were offered $20.
The higher minimum was needed to encourage Canadian consumers to make a claim, the plaintiffs’ lawyers said. They often hung back in previous class-action settlements, missing out on money they were entitled to receive.
“Overpriced DRAM cost consumers $9 to $11 for an average computer. We needed a higher amount to draw people in,” Foreman said.
Just a week after its launch, one of the most expensive and extensive class-action awareness campaigns in history is a big hit. Applicants are urged to send out a message on Twitter and Facebook after sending in their claim forms.
“”We’ve never had the kind of momentum we’re seeing here,” Foreman said. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars have already been claimed, but we have a lot of money in the fund.”
Those who claim $20 don’t need proof of purchase. They just have to declare that their claims information is true.
Those who bought DRAM or electronic devices containing DRAM for non-personal use qualify for a higher payout. But they need documentation, such as purchase orders, historical accounting records or record showing the budgets for electronic purchases.
Price fixing is a serious abuse. We need successful class actions such as this one to stop cartels from being created.