File a claim but manage your expectations

2 Mar
The ad announcing the DRAM Class Action suit is catchy but doesn’t deliver on its promise.

The ad announcing the DRAM Class Action suit is catchy but doesn’t deliver on its promise.

I saw an ad recently on the evening news that grabbed my attention. It was professionally produced with some cool animation, and its message stopped me in my tracks. I rewound and listened again.

Here is the full transcript from the 30-second spot:

Canada: between 1999 and 2002, people weren’t aware that they were paying too much for their electronic devices. Some memory chip manufacturers reportedly agreed to price fix. A class action lawsuit was filed and a settlement was reached. If you purchased a computer, printer, game console or any other device with a memory chip between 1999 and 2002 you can now get your money back. Simply visit and get what is owed to you.

I have a vague recollection about the memory chip price fixing controversy, so this rang true.

I quickly drew up a list of electronics purchased over those four years. This included an Apple iPod, Nintendo 64 game console and two early versions of the Apple iMac computer – one purchased in 1999 and the other in 2002. Altogether, I estimate I paid up to $5000 for the lot.

Was it really possible that I could now get my “money back” like the ad said?

I went to and for a while things looked promising. The headline at the top said:

“YOU PAID TOO MUCH. Some DRAM manufacturers conspired to fix prices. Collect what is owed to you. No receipt required.”

I scanned down the page for further details. There was information about the $80 million class action suit and which products would qualify for the refund. It included anything that contained a memory chip, including DVD players and PDAs (as smart phones were known then). It looked like my list of refundables was getting longer.

So then I moved to the important stuff: the “Start Your Claim!” button. It gave me two options: a simplified claim (no proof of purchase required) and a standard claim, which may require documentation.

And this is where the fine print reached out and smacked me in the face, like the cruel punch line that punishes you for listening to a bad joke. (What was in the package? BS, like the rest of the story!)

The simplified claim would earn me a paltry $20. That’s it.

This didn’t feel right, not when my products had a combined value of $5000. The site has a calculator to help determine if it is worth filing the more detailed standard claim. I entered all four products, but the total refund was still $20. You can imagine my disappointment. I sent an email to the site admin, asking why. Within a day I received this reply from Darlene:

“The $20 is not per computer/item, it is a minimum amount being offered per household in this class action. Several CEUs will be covered under the $20.”

I replied that the amount still seemed small, given the number of products I had purchased. Was the class action even worth the time and trouble?

“This class action suit only covers the alleged price fixing of the DRAM, which is just one of many parts in electronics,” Darlene replied. “We believe it was worth the time and trouble.”

“My only concern,” I responded, “is that the 30-second TV advertisement said ‘…you can now get your money back.’ This sounds deceptive, causing me (and no doubt thousands of other Canadians) to do a happy dance before learning the truth. Shouldn’t it have said SOME of your money back?’

“We are the distribution center,” Darlene wrote back, “but I can certainly pass along your concern.”

I had no further response up to deadline time. In my view, by stating that you “can now get your money back” the ad announcing this class action remedy is almost as deceptive as the price fixing itself. The refund is without question being oversold.

Anyway, $20 is $20, right? I filed the claim. The instantaneous auto-reply cautioned that claims may be paid up to a year after the June 23 deadline to file and refund amounts could decrease based on the number of claims.

Go ahead and file a claim, if you don’t mind waiting 15 months for a refund that may or may not be $20.


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