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Sony, Pioneer, Toshiba among optical disc drive makers settling $29.7M Canadian class action

Some of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world have settled a Canadian class action that accused them of a vast price-fixing conspiracy related to sales of optical disc drives, including game consoles, CD/DVD players and computers.

Individuals who bought electronics between 2004 and 2010 can claim $20 with no proof of purchase

Some of the most recognized brands in electronics have settled a $29.7-million class-action lawsuit over an alleged conspiracy to artificially inflate prices of optical disc drives (ODDs), the memory device used to read optical discs such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-rays. (Pic-A-Flic Video/Facebook)

Some of the largest electronics manufacturers in the world have agreed to settle a Canadian lawsuit that accuses them of vast price fixing on optical disc drives, including computers, game consoles, as well as CD and DVD players, sold between 2004 and 2010.

An optical disc drive, or ODD, is a memory storage device that reads and/or writes data using an optical disc, such as CDs, DVDs and Blu-ray. ODDs are found within computers, video-game consoles, as well as CD, DVD and Blu-ray players.

The $29.7-million settlement has been approved by courts in Ontario, B.C. and Quebec after a deal was reached between the plaintiffs and BenQ, Hitachi-LG, NEC, Panasonic, Phillips, Pioneer, Quanta, Sony, TEAC and Toshiba Samsung.

The lawsuit alleges that instead of competing, the manufacturers conspired to artificially inflate prices to gouge customers for more money.

How to claim your $20

How much was apparently being overcharged is still unknown, according to Linda Visser, a class-action group partner with Siskinds law firm based in London, Ont. She said the manufacturers came to a settlement before the exact total could be determined. 

A row of Blu-ray movies on display in Toronto in June 2010. Businesses looking to make claims on large-scale purchases covered during the period of the class action must provide documentation. However, a lawyer said given the time that has elapsed, there is room for flexibility.

"We didn't get to that stage in the litigation," she said. 

Both individuals and businesses can make a claim in the case, said Visser. 

"For consumers, we tried to make the claims process very easy. It does not require a proof of purchase. They just need to go online to the website and fill out the online form, basically saying they bought one of the products during the class period." 

Visser said the list includes most mainstream electronics that contain an ODD that was sold in Canada between 2004 and 2010, including computers, video-game consoles, and CD, DVD and Blu-ray players. Individuals can claim up to $20 once without a receipt. For additional claims, proof of purchase will be required, Visser said. 

"Proof of purchase is not required because we would expect that most Canadians would have purchased those items during the roughly six-year period. We wanted to make it an easy claims process."

For businesses and institutions, which likely had larger purchases, they must support their claims, but there is room for flexibility, Visser said. 

"We try to be flexible, recognizing that this is now some time ago and that they may not have maintained full records." 

Allegations of the price-fixing conspiracy arose from an anti-trust investigation into the ODD industry by the U.S. Department of Justice, leading to a number of fines and convictions. The European Commission also investigated similar allegations in 2015 and fined eight ODD suppliers for their role in the alleged conspiracy. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Colin Butler

Reporter

Colin Butler covers the environment, real estate, justice as well as urban and rural affairs for CBC News in London, Ont. He is a veteran journalist with 20 years' experience in print, radio and television in seven Canadian cities. You can email him at colin.butler@cbc.ca.

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