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Class action suits not always a win for consumers: Know what you're entitled to

Posted by Mitch Lipka  September 10, 2013 10:13 PM

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Q. We have a Samsung LCD TV that had an issue with the TV shutting off and recycling. We found out it was one of the TVs involved in a class action settlement from Samsung. They told us we were allowed one free replacement of a power board. They had a technician come out from an authorized dealer and he fixed the TV. After one day, the same thing happened. We called Samsung and they said you need to contact the shop because the part is warranted for 90 days. When we called the dealer, we were told that someone would come out, but we have to pay a $100 fee. We called Samsung and emailed them and they keep tossing it back to the dealer. Any suggestions?

Kate Guerard, Stoughton

A. Class action settlements can sound so promising until you get to the details.

Consumers can benefit from some class action cases. They often involve little to no action by consumers who own the product at issue. But they also usually cut off the ability of those who accept the benefits of the settlement from having any other recourse.

Many consumers aren’t even aware they are part of a lawsuit because they might have ignored the letter or email telling them about the case. Settlements of these cases,of course, are written by lawyers, who are usually the biggest beneficiaries. And while they can be expensive for companies, they also limit what consumers can get as compensation for the misfortune of purchasing a product that had enough problems to warrant a lawsuit.

While there was agreement in this case to provide a free repair, as you’ve come to find out there was also an agreement to cut off everyone right there – no matter what the outcome. That includes the phrase “no exceptions.”

If the one shot at a free repair worked, great. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Like all class action settlements, the devil’s in the details. Read the terms to see what you’re entitled to. You might be pleasantly surprised or quite disappointed.

Regardless, it’s still worth complaining to the manufacturer and dealer -- as high up the food chain as you can -- in a ridiculous situation like this.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
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About the author

Mitch Lipka is one of America's leading consumer journalists and advocates. He is an expert in product safety, recalls, scams, and helping consumers get out of jams. He is a nationally known consumer columnist and runs TheConsumerChronicle.com. He lives in Worcester. You can find him on Facebook or reach him at ConsumerNews@Aol.com

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