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Bay Area Flat-Screen Owners May Be Part Of Huge LCD Price-Fixing Settlement

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Children use laptop computers and a television. (Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images)

Children use laptop computers and a television. (Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images)

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SAN FRANCISCO (CBS) – Bay Area flat screen owners may get some unexpected cash now that flat-screen manufacturers have agreed to pay customers more than half a billion dollars in the largest price-fixing settlement in U.S. history.

Chances are if you bought a TV or a laptop from 1999 to 2006, you were overcharged in an elaborate alleged price-fixing conspiracy.

San Francisco antitrust attorney, Joseph Alioto said 10 major LCD manufacturers went to great lengths to keep their alleged price-fixing plan under wraps.

“These folks met secretly, privately in hotels and bookstores. They used the telephone instead of emails because that would be evidence,” Alioto said. He also added that manufacturer workers would meet regularly to determine whether or not they would raise prices, all in an effort to stop competition over the LCD panels.

Alioto said consumers were over-charged for TVs and computers by an estimated 27% during a seven-year period resulting in more than $2 billion in damages.

Seven of the 10 accused manufacturers have agreed to a settlement of more than $500 million dollars while the remaining 3 are set to go to trial in April.

It is not clear how consumers can go about getting their money back or how much they’re actually owed, but Alioto said that he is in the process of coming up with a redemption process.

He said $3 million would be spent to get the word out about the settlement via newspaper, radio and TV.

The judge presiding over the case is set to approve the settlement on January 20 next year.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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