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CD settlement should net consumers $12.60 apiece

PORTLAND, Maine — Music buyers who applied for a share of a price-fixing settlement involving major U.S. record distributors and retailers will receive about $12.60 apiece if a judge signs off on the deal.

Roughly 3.5 million U.S. residents who purchased music between 1995 and 2000 registered for claims by last Wednesday's deadline, said Maine Assistant Attorney General John Brautigam.

The deadline was pushed back two days because a last-minute barrage of online applications caused the settlement's Web site to crash. More than 95 percent of claims were filed online.

Claimants will split $44 million allocated for individual claims if the class-action settlement is approved by U.S. District Judge D. Brock Hornby on May 2.

The lawsuit, signed by the attorneys general of 40 states, including Utah, and consolidated in Portland, accuses major record labels and large music retailers facing competition from discount retailers like Target and Wal-Mart of conspiring to set minimum music prices.

The defendants — Sony Music Entertainment, EMI Music Distribution, Warner-Elektra-Atlantic Corp., Universal Music Group and Bertelsmann Music Group, as well as retailers Tower Records, Musicland Stores and Trans World Entertainment — have denied any wrongdoing.

Beyond the $44 million in cash, the deal's terms would provide 5.5 million CDs valued at $75.7 million to public institutions and nonprofit organizations. It also would prohibit major music distributors from tying cooperative advertising efforts to retailers' advertised prices.

The settlement money has been collected from the defendants and is in escrow, Brautigam said. Payments should be mailed out within weeks of the settlement's approval.