NEW YORK, March 6 Think back to the devices you had at the turn of the 21st century. One of the early iMacs or iPods, perhaps. How about the Nintendo GameCube or Sony PlayStation? What about that computer you tossed because it seemed too slow... around 2003?
If you can remember owning just about any electronic device purchased in the U.S. between 1998 and 2002, you could be due some cash from a class-action lawsuit with a $310 million settlement fund. You don't need a receipt.
"We'll take your word for it," said Tracy Kirkham, a partner in the San Francisco firm Cooper & Kirkham, one of the plaintiffs' attorneys. "Almost everybody who thinks they are eligible is probably eligible."
The settlement is a result of a U.S. Justice Department investigation that began in 2002 and resulted in allegations of price-fixing among the makers of DRAM (Dynamic Random Access Memory) modules. It led to a series of lawsuits that were grouped together in 2007 in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
With so many plaintiffs and defendants, the case took a long time to resolve.
The details were finalized late last year, so now it's time to pay out. For consumers, the process starts this week. Companies that purchased devices for their offices, as well as electronics stores, could also be eligible to collect, Kirkham said, but those who purchased large numbers of devices will have to produce records, while consumers do not.
Kirkham suggested picturing where you lived more than a decade ago and looking around that image in your head to see what devices you recall.
"It's a trip down memory lane," Kirkham said. "We ask you to sit there and do your best thinking."
Among the devices that used DRAM: video game consoles, computers of all sorts, digital video recorders and players, MP3 players, personal digital assistants, DVD players and computer printers.
Volumes of information about the case and an online claim form are available on the settlement website (). An advertising campaign has been launched in conjunction with the opening of the claims period, which runs through August 1.
The minimum payment for a claim will be $10. Of the $310 million pot, $50 million is set aside for small claims. The remainder will be split among electronics resellers, companies that purchased equipment, colleges and states. Up to 25 percent will go to the lawyers.
Defendants in the case and what they paid into the settlement include Elpida Memory Inc ($4.3 million), Hitachi Ltd ($5.6 million), Hynix Semiconductor Inc ($50 million), Infineon Technologies AG ($29.1 million), Micron Technology Inc ($66.8 million), Mitsubishi Electric Corp ($5.6 million), Mosel Vitelic Corp ($2.8 million), Nanya Technology Corp ($3.8 million), NEC Electronics America Inc ($20.3 million), Samsung Electronics Co ($113 million), Toshiba Corp ($7.5 million), and Winbond Electronics Corp ($2 million).