Mitsubishi may owe 5,000 in state $20 to $54 due each in TV rebate


About 5,000 Marylanders stand to get rebates from Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc. as the result of a settlement of charges that the company unlawfully fixed prices of its television sets.

Mitsubishi Electronics America Inc., the United States distributor Mitsubishi and MGA brand televisions, yesterday agreed to refund $7.95 million to consumers nationwide to settle complaints filed against the corporation in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said Marylanders who bought certain brands of Mitsubishi and MGA televisions in 1988 will receive refunds ranging from $20 to $54 each.

Although the company agreed to the settlement, it denied that it engaged in any illegal activity.

Curran said the lawsuits resulted from an investigation conducted by the antitrust division of his office and by the attorney general of New York.

The settlement with Mitsubishi allows attorneys general from other states to participate in the settlement on behalf of consumers who live in those states.

Curran said that, to his knowledge, it is the first time that Maryland has participated in an investigation that will lead to benefits for consumers throughout the country. He said his office was alerted to the illegal practices by retailers.

The complaints filed in court said Mitsubishi attempted to enlist electronics retailers in a nationwide conspiracy to fix retail prices. In January 1988, Mitsubishi instituted a standard dealer agreement requiring its dealers to place tags containing Mitsubishi's suggested retail price on all its products, the complaints said. The company did not permit dealers to place any other prices on these tags.

The complaints alleged that the company monitored its price-tagging programs to ensure that its products were not sold below the suggested retail price. The company also obtained agreements from dealers that they would not sell below the suggested price.

Curran said the settlement requires Mitsubishi to take affirmative steps to assure that retailers are aware they may set their own prices.

Television models involved in the settlement are CS1345, CS1945, CS2045, CS201, CS2054, CS2653 and CS2654. Consumers who purchased these models in 1988 are entitled to refunds.

Consumers who filled out warranty cards when they purchased the products are qualified automatically to receive rebates. Other consumers mail.

Consumers also may obtain a claim form by calling the antitrust division of the attorney general's office at 576-6470.

Similar joint investigations resulted in lawsuits and settlements concerning Panasonic and Minolta products in 1987 and 1988. In the Minolta case, which was filed in federal court here, and the Panasonic case, which was filed in New York, the manufacturers secured agreements from dealers to sell products for set prices.

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