Class action litigation leading to a settlement of $80 million from DRAM (dynamic random access memory) manufacturers is now open to all claims in Canada, where filling out a simple form should be enough to get the minimum $20.
In a series of class action lawsuits spearheaded in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, DRAM manufacturers were alleged to have colluded in fixing prices between April 1, 1999 and June 30, 2002. The price-fixing scheme would have effectively inflated prices of most electronic devices at the time, ranging from computers, printers, video game consoles, MP3 players, graphics cards, PDAs (personal data assistants), and computer-based point-of-sale systems.
While some DRAM manufacturers plead guilty to fixing prices in some cases in the United States and Europe, that didn’t happen in Canada. And so, a court-approved settlement was reached amounting to $80 million.
All Canadians who were at least 18 years old within the three-year span and purchased electronic devices with DRAM are eligible. Households must file as a unit.
Since claims will likely be high in number, the law firms involved took to developing a website to simplify and streamline the process. The Money is Mine site will be accepting claims until June 23, and is offering two particular paths in which to do so. Claimants only need to fill in the information directly on the site and submit it to take part.
“We spent the better part of two years working on the distribution platform in this case and we wanted to make it as simple as possible for people to claim,” says Jonathan Foreman, a class action lawyer involved in the case from Harrison Pensa in London, ON. “Of course, we’re not inviting fraudulent claims, and so, significant protections have been built-in to the software platform that runs this settlement distribution process to protect against that.”
This includes, but isn’t limited to, detecting the IP addresses of where the claims are coming from, cross-referencing data and assessing from there. The review process timetable is aiming to cut cheques in the fall this year, though Foreman says it’s hard to be entirely sure of the actual timing for each claim.
Splitting the options into two distinct channels is by design, he adds. The Simplified route values claims at a maximum of $20. The only way it can be lower is if they have to prorate the total settlement money because of an enormous number of claims that come in.
“If you’re a consumer, and you don’t have receipts from 1999-2002, the Simplified process is the way to go,” he says. “But if you’re a bigger buyer of DRAM, or a big business, and you do have receipts or documentation that proves you have lots of product, you go through the Standard channel. Standard requires some proof to support your purchases. We’re expecting much larger claims to be made there by entities that bought in bulk.”
With Simplified, you’re limiting yourself to $20, but if you did buy several devices and have a paper trail to back them up, Standard might be a better route. Since receipts may not be readily available going back that far, the site offers suggestions on what could qualify as proof of purchase, including a credit card statement, warranty card and repair bill. Purchase orders, accounting records and other pertinent documentation if you were buying electronics as a business, wholesaler or distributor are also valid. In case you’re unsure, Foreman suggests using the “Contact Us” link on the site to ask questions before actually submitting anything.
One of the most important factors in determining the total settlement figure is based on how much commerce the defendants had in Canada with respect to their DRAM sales, Foreman explains. This is both direct commerce in how much of their product is sold directly to Canadian companies for manufacturing processes, and indirect commerce in how much of their product came through sales of computers, printers, and other electronics.
“This case is a bit of a precedent-setter in Canada in that it made the law, in many ways, as it went through the courts. Cases like this don’t happen quickly. You also don’t achieve $80 million in settlement quickly, either, because it does take time,” he says.