By MICHAEL VIRTANEN
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Seven companies based in Asia will pay $553 million to settle claims by officials in eight states that they conspired to inflate prices for liquid crystal display screens used in televisions and computer monitors, New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said Tuesday.
The agreement provides $501 million for partial refunds for consumers in 24 states and the District of Columbia who purchased products with the companies’ LCD panels from 1999 through 2006.
In a group of lawsuits that eventually were consolidated into one federal case in the Northern District of California, officials in the eight states alleged that the Japanese, Korean and Taiwanese companies conspired along with certain affiliates of each corporation to fix prices on their thin-film transistor LCD panels.
The settlement by Chi Mei Innolux Corp., Chunghwa Picture Tubes Ltd., Epson Imaging Devices Corp., HannStar Display Corp., Hitachi Displays Ltd., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. and Sharp Corp. and their U.S. affiliates addresses antitrust claims brought by attorneys general in Arkansas, California, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, New York, West Virginia and Wisconsin.
The companies denied responsibility and said in the pact that they settled to avoid the expense of protracted litigation. They did not immediately reply to requests for comment Tuesday. But Schneiderman declared victory.
“This price-fixing scheme manipulated the playing field for businesses that abide by the rules and left consumers to pay artificially higher costs for televisions, computers and other electronics,” Schneiderman said.
The state of New York could get more than $11 million, while consumers are eligible for partial refunds on millions of panels sold in New York, he said.
In addition to the eight states that filed claims, the agreement covers consumers in Arizona, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee and Vermont, according to New York’s attorney general.
A process for applying for the partial refunds is not yet in place, though officials expect there to be one claims administrator for all the states. The attorneys general are expected to post notices about the process.