Florida LCD consumers get settlement checks just in time for Election Day

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks to reporters in front of the Supreme Court in Washington in 2012.
Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi speaks to reporters in front of the Supreme Court in Washington in 2012. AP File

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi last week had good news for about 15,000 consumers who bought a liquid crystal display television, computer or monitor between 1999 and 2006.

They were being reimbursed between $43 and $87 for each product they bought, thanks to a settlement with electronics manufacturers, including Toshiba and Mitsubishi, which were accused by Florida and seven other states of price rigging.

“We are pleased that you were able to participate in this settlement,” the letter, signed by Bondi, told consumers. About $35 million will be paid out to Florida customers, according to Bondi’s office, in a settlement that was first announced in late 2011.

That the checks from the 2-year-old settlement arrived in Florida the week before Election Day was no mistake. According to the company that issued the checks, Rust Consulting, Bondi’s office requested that Florida consumers be paid before the other states. The Florida checks were mailed Oct. 25.

But that meant other states had to wait, since the 230,000 checks being mailed nationwide couldn’t all be printed at once, said Robin Niemiec, Rust’s client services director.

Lizabeth Brady, an attorney in Bondi’s office, made the request in mid October, Niemiec said.

“Liz was on the call with me and other states and said, ‘If no one cares, can we go first?’ “ Niemiec said. “No one did. Later, Michigan wanted to be up among the first too.”

Michigan’s checks were mailed Oct. 27, also in time for pre-Election Day delivery.

Michigan and Florida are the only two of the eight states in the settlement to have competitive attorneys general races that will be decided today.

The other states either have non-competitive races, open seats or an incumbent who isn’t up for re-election. They had to wait until Oct. 29 to get their checks mailed, meaning some won’t arrive until Wednesday.

Did the elections determine which states got paid first?

Niemiec said the subject was never brought up to her.

“(That’s) a question better suited for AG’s office,” she said in an email. “We didn’t get into that much detail.”

Asked if the timing of the checks had to do with today’s election, Bondi’s spokeswoman Jenn Meale didn’t respond. Brady couldn’t be reached.

The settlement came after years of negotiating with numerous electronics manufacturers. Bondi’s predecessor, Bill McCollum, filed the lawsuit in 2010 alleging that the manufacturers had conspired to hike prices on the LCD equipment, costing consumers billions.

Bondi continued fighting the case in 2011 upon taking office, and announced in December of that year that it had reached a settlement with the companies. But it took until Oct. 20 before the federal judge in the case issued the order to pay the settlement.

Michael Van Sickler can be reached at (850) 224-7263. Follow @mikevansickler.