Thousands of Marylanders who bought Mitsubishi and MGA televisions in 1988 will receive refunds as part of a $5 million settlement of a price-fixing suit brought by the attorneys general of Maryland and New York.
About 140,000 people throughout the nation -- 7,000 of them in Maryland -- will get refunds ranging from $20 to $54 from Mitsubishi.
The agreement was signed yesterday by U.S. District Judge Frederic N. Smalkin, who called it "a model of how things should be handled."
In the complaint, state officials charged that in 1988 Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc., the U.S. distributor of Mitsubishi and MGA televisions, conspired to fix the price of its televisions. Eight different televisions, all of them selling for $800 or less, were mentioned in the class-action suit.
The complaint stated that when the subsidiary of the Japanese electronics company shipped its televisions, it tagged them with a manufacturer's suggested price. Company representatives checked retailers and demanded that those selling the products for less than the suggested price comply with Mitsubishi's pricing policy, according to the complaint.
In return for the cash settlement, the attorneys general of Maryland and New York have agreed to drop a 2-year-old investigation into Mitsubishi's activities. The company did not admit any guilt.
In addition to the $4.3 million that will be paid to consumers, the states of Maryland and New York, which took the lead in the case, will receive $75,000 each to cover attorney fees.
The other 48 states and the District of Columbia, which joined the suit, will receive small amounts for attorney fees.
The suit resulted from an probe by the Maryland attorney general's Antitrust Division and the attorney general of New York. The probe began when retailers told state officials about Mitsubishi's alleged practices.
Maryland has been involved in other successful price-fixing investigations. Last year, the state was part of investigation into allegations of price-fixing by Nintendo of America Inc., a video-game distributor. In that case, the company agreed to give $25 million in coupons to consumers nationwide and pay $3 million in cash.