LCD makers to pay $571 million to settle price-fixing case

The settlement agreeement with LCD makers has now ballooned to $1.1 billion

U.S. states on Thursday announced they have reached settlement agreements with LCD makers LG Display, AU Optronics and Toshiba, who will pay close to US$571 million end the price-fixing case against them.

The U.S. state attorneys general said that the companies conspired to fix, raise and maintain prices of TFT-LCD flat panels, which led to prices being inflated and consumers being overcharged. Consumers in 24 states and the District of Columbia will be refunded overcharges they paid between Jan. 1, 1999 and Dec. 31, 2006.

Earlier settlements were made with companies including Chimei, Chunghwa Picture Tubes, Epson, HannStar Display, Hitachi, Samsung Electronics and Sharp. The companies paid $538 million to a settlement fund. With the addition of settlement agreements with LG Display, AU Optronics and Toshiba, the fund has now ballooned to $1.1 billion.

Following court approval of the settlements ,close to $692 million will be available as partial compensation to consumers in the states involved who purchased products containing TFT-LCD panels, said the New York State Attorney General's office in a statement. Users can visit the LCD class-action lawsuit website for registration and more information on the past settlements.

A class-action case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District in California. In earlier settlements made last month, Samsung has agreed to pay $240 million into the settlement fund, Sharp will pay $115.5 million and Chi Mei will pay $110.3 million.

A lawyer representing the class-action status against the display companies, Joseph Alioto, said that consumers will get paid a minimum of $25 for purchases made tied to the settlement. The consumer has to be a resident of a participating state, and purchases could include products such as TV, monitor, or laptop. The states participating are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Alioto sent out a letter to the other U.S. states asking them to participate in the settlement agreement. However, the other states decided not to.

AU Optronics, in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday, said "we have reached an agreement in principle with Indirect Purchaser Plaintiffs in connection with an antitrust civil class action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California pending court approval, at which time the company will make further announcement."

LG Display and Toshiba did not respond to requests for comment.

The U.S. Department of Justice has been investigating companies colluding in TFT-LCD price fixing, and many company executives have been found guilty of colluding to fix prices.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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