by Cyrus Dugger, Mon Jul 24, 2006 at 05:35:26 AM EDT
It's critical that the state, and not just private law firms, stand up for the rights of consumers.
If you read the newspapers this week, you would have seen an excellent example of this practice. Last week, more than thirty State Attorneys General filed a class action lawsuit against a consortium of technology manufacturers that engaged in an international conspiracy to artificially inflate and control prices in the computer chip industry (NY also filed a separate suit).
This class action lawsuit seeks to recoup the money spent by state entities, as well as by each state's own citizens, on the inflated prices of the computers containing these chips. The case was launched on the heels of the DOJ criminal investigation, prosecution, and subsequent attainment of guilty pleas from several defendants.
Some estimates put the increased costs to consumers as high as hundreds of millions of dollars. You'd be surprised to read that such well-known corporations as Samsung (at least in Attorney General Spitzer's separately filed suit) are there with the rest of the defendants (in the suits of the other states they are excluded pending settlement negotiations). The scope of the conspiracy is international, involving collaboration by almost 70% of the market share, and crosses numerous international boundaries.
This lawsuit is a great example of exactly what our states should be doing. I don't really know a much better use of the portion of our tax dollars earmarked for our Attorney General than filing suits against international conspiracies to increase prices (by the way, what always bothers me is how free market defenders - as these companies likely are - are willing to engage in such anti-competitive and decidedly un-free monopoly behavior - but I digress).
Ironically, some "tort reform" organizations (click here for an overview of the tort reform movement) are attacking state attorneys general for exactly this kind of aggressive pursuit of consumer fairness.
As you may or may not know, the "American Tort Reform Association" is not really about creatively reforming our civil justice system, but is focused on dismantling it.