Still More Fuel in LCD Price-Fixing Dispute

     (CN) – Toshiba, LG and other electronic giants cannot sideline a retailer’s claims over their admitted LCD price-fixing conspiracy, a federal judge ruled, showing little sympathy for the companies that recently settled a related consumer class action for a record $1.1 billion.
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     Toshiba, LG, AU Optronics and seven other manufacturers of liquid crystal display screens settled the largest antitrust class action in history for $1.1 billion last month.
     Those settlement funds will be distributed among consumers who bought laptops and flat screen televisions between January 1999 and December 2006. But the deal does not cover electronics retailers that have also accused the same defendants of a long-running price-fixing conspiracy.
     In refusing to decertify the class of electronics retailers, U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco said that the admitted conspiracy directly affected the U.S. economy.
     The manufacturers tried to sideline claims from Massachusetts-based Tweeter Home Entertainment Group, but Illston upheld most of its claims last week.
     Though Massachusetts has a four-year statute of limitations for antitrust claims, and Tweeter undisputedly filed its complaint after that clock ran out, Illston noted that Tweet had first participated in the direct-purchaser class action before opting out in January 2011.
     Tweeter then pursued its claims through the indirect-purchaser class action until the amended complaint excluded resellers like Tweeter in 2008, the judge found.
     These actions tolled the statute of limitations, according to the court.
     “Even assuming the IPPs intended to represent a class of only end-users, this intention was not readily apparent to any other party who may have relied upon the suit because the plain language of the class definition clearly included ‘all persons and entities’ who were indirect purchasers,” Illston wrote, abbreviating indirect purchaser plaintiffs (italics in original).
     Since NEC Corp. and its subsidiaries were not defendants in the indirect-purchaser class action, however, Tweeter cannot sue those entities now, the judge found.

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