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Final Settlement Orders Babies R Us|to Pay $35 Million for Price-Fixing

PHILADELPHIA (CN) - Consumers who bought Britax car seats from Babies R Us will get the bulk of a $35 million settlement, with significant stakes also going to purchasers of Medela breast pumps or Kids Line products, a federal judge ruled.

The final settlement approval closes the book on a 5-year-old antitrust case alleging that the retail chain conspired with manufacturers to inflate prices for baby products.

After U.S. District Judge Anita Brody certified the class in July 2009, additional consumers filed a related suit in late December of that year. Brody gave preliminary approval to a settlement about a year later.

Though 10 members of the class objected to the settlement at a fairness hearing on July 6, 2011, about 41,000 consumers filed claims by the same date. Brody granted final approval on Wednesday.

The judge noted that more than 1.2 million known class members received notice of the settlement via direct mail, and consumers may have also leaned about the case in magazine ads or on BabyProductsAntitrustSettlement.com.

As thousands of claims to the settlement poured in, 10 objected. The court notes that one of those was withdrawn and another did not come from a class member. Another objection, from class representative Yossi Zarfati, argued for higher incentive awards for the class representatives.

Brody rejected this claim, however, noting that "Zarfati's private status as a lawyer does not permit him to expect an hourly rate for his work on the case."

The remaining seven claimed that the settlement was too low and that the notice was inadequate.

Brody rejected these claims as well.

In an allocation order, Brody says that 28 percent of the settlement will go to consumers who bought Britax car seats from Babies R Us between Jan. 1, 1999, and Jan. 31, 2011. Consumers who bought the Medela Pump In Style breast pump from July 1, 1999, to the same end date get 22 percent of the settlement. Purchasers of Kids Line products between Jan. 1, 1999, and Dec. 31, 2006, get the third largest stake, 21 percent. The remainder of the settlement goes to five different settlement classes

Class counsel will get one-third of the settlement, or $11.7 million. Brody also agreed to allocate $2.2 million for reimbursement of expenses.

Each class representative will receive $2,500 as an incentive award.

In March 2011, the Federal Trade Commission announced that it settled related charges against Toys R Us for $1.3 million.

The class in the Babies R Us case was represented by Spector, Roseman, Kodroff & Willis of Philadelphia, Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro of Oak Park, Ill., and Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz of Chicago.

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