SAN FRANCISCO (CN) A class of electronics retailers may proceed with state law consumer protection and unjust enrichment claims against LCD panel manufacturers including Toshiba, Hitachi and Epson, among others, a federal judge ruled.
The plaintiffs contend that the electronics manufacturers engaged in a global price-fixing conspiracy to raise prices and restrict competition in the sales of computer monitors, laptops, televisions and other LCD products.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston agreed that defendants “secretly conspired” to raise prices on LCD devices to “supra-competitive” levels.
Whether the defendants’ eight to 12 percent price increase amounts to a “gross disparity” remains to be determined.
Regarding plaintiffs’ Vermont Consumer Fraud Act claim, Illston found that defendants’ concealment of their price-fixing activities may “likely to affect the consumer’s conduct or decision with regard to a product.”
Plaintiffs also presented adequate evidence that the money they paid for the overpriced LCD-panel devices went directly to the defendants, which supports an unjust enrichment claim.
Plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claims also survive under New York law, as plaintiffs established that the LCD panels are an integral component of the electronics in which they are contained. There is a “traceable physical chain” from the defendants, to the plaintiffs to the consumers.
The unjust enrichment claims may also proceed under Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Kansas, West Virginia, District of Columbia and several other state laws.