A dozen memory chip manufacturers have settled price fixing allegations, spanning from 1998 to 2002, for $310 million, though they admit no wrongdoing. Consumers and businesses may get a piece of the settlement if they purchased any computer or electronic devices with dynamic random access memory, also known as DRAM.
Devices that qualify include personal computers, laptops, servers, graphics cards, video game consoles, MP3 players, printers, PDAs, DVD players, DVRs, Point of Sale Systems and other electronic devices using DRAM. Purchases of DRAM, not in a device, from a retailer and not directly from the manufacturer are also included in the settlement.
The Washington State Attorney General’s Office announced that state agencies will receive close to $500,000 in compensation for the DRAM and DRAM devices that were purchased during that time. Because the settlement covers a time period from more than a decade ago, consumers who file a claim at www.dramclaims.com do not have to show proof of purchase when filing. Consumers are encouraged to save any proof or documentation of purchase that they still may have. The deadline for filing the claim is Aug. 1.
The settlement anticipates that consumers will receive at least $10 per claim. Larger purchasers, such as businesses, could receive much more. However, if more than 5 million claims from consumers and businesses are received, the funds will be distributed to charities instead.
Price fixing occurs when competitors agree to raise, lower or stabilize prices or competitive terms for their products. Examples of price fixing that resulted in settlements or fines have included e-books, LCD screens, vitamins, international airlines’ flights, auto parts and perfume.
Antitrust laws do cover more than price fixing. Competitors discussing the following topics may find themselves under antitrust scrutiny: present or future prices, pricing policies, promotions, bids, costs, capacity, terms or conditions of sale including credit terms, discounts, identity of customers, allocation of customers or sales areas, production quotas and R&D plans.
Some common practices that are not considered price fixing include price or promotion matching guarantees. Businesses may also monitor competitor prices and adjust prices to match the competition. So long as such decisions are not based on agreements or in coordination with competitors, then no antitrust laws are broken.
For more tips you can trust, visit the BBB at www.bbb.org or call (509) 455-4200.
Erin T. Dodge, BBB editor