The maker of Mitsubishi and MGA brand televisions agreed yesterday to refund customers anywhere from $20 to $54 as a part of a settlement of charges that the company tried to fix retail prices for its televisions in 1988.
Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said yesterday that Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc. has agreed to create a $7.95 million fund to repay an estimated 600,000 people who bought Mitsubishi and MGA color TVs in 1988. Mr. Curran said he believed 5,000 Marylanders would be eligible for refunds.
In return for the refund, Mr. Curran and New York's attorney general have agreed to drop a 2-year-old investigation into charges that Mitsubishi unlawfully tried to force all retailers to charge the same price for 1988 models of its color televisions.
Jon Kasle, a spokesman for New York-based Mitsubishi Electronics America, said the company denied any wrongdoing. He said Mitsubishi agreed to settle the civil charges, which were included in complaints filed yesterday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, in order to "avoid disruption to our dealers and to the conduct of our business."
Mr. Curran said prosecutors learned of the alleged price-fixing after some retailers complained that Mitsubishi was insisting they place special tags giving Mitsubishi's suggested retail price on the products.
The retailers charged that Mitsubishi did not allow retailers to put other tags on the televisions and insisted that the retailers refrain from discounting them, Mr. Curran said. Preventing a retailer from discounting products violates U.S. antitrust laws, the attorney general said.
This is the third refund settlement of price-fixing charges against a Japanese consumer electronics company in the last four years, Mr. Curran said. Mitsubishi Electronics America is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Electric Corp. of Japan.
Mitsubishi has agreed to help notify the approximately 270,000 television buyers who filled out warranty cards for color televisions in 1988 of their eligibility, Mr. Curran said.
Customers who didn't fill out the cards can call the attorney general's office at (301) 576-6470 or write the attorney general at 200 Saint Paul Place, Baltimore, 21202.