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    Consumer Alert

    Class-action settlements may leave little other recourse

    Q. We have a Samsung LCD TV that had an issue with the TV shutting off and recycling. We found out it was one of the TVs involved in a class-action settlement from Samsung. They told us we were allowed one free replacement of a power board. They had a technician come out from an authorized dealer and he fixed the TV. After one day, the same thing happened. We called Samsung, and they said you need to contact the shop because the part is warranted for 90 days. When we called the dealer, we were told that someone would come out, but we have to pay a $100 fee. We called Samsung and e-mailed them and they keep tossing it back to the dealer. Any suggestions?


    A. Class-action settlements can sound so promising until you get to the details.


    Consumers can benefit in from some cases. They often involve little to no action by consumers who own the product at issue. But they also usually cut off the ability of those who accept the benefits of the settlement from having any other recourse.

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    Many consumers aren’t even aware they are part of a lawsuit because they might have ignored the letter or e-mail telling them about the case. Settlements of these cases, of course, are written by lawyers, who are usually the biggest beneficiaries. And while they can be expensive for companies, they also limit what consumers can get as compensation for the misfortune of purchasing a product that had enough problems to warrant a lawsuit.

    While there was agreement in this case to provide a free repair, as you’ve come to find out, there was also an agreement to cut off everyone right there — no matter what the outcome. That includes the phrase “no exceptions.”

    If the one shot at a free repair worked, great. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. Read the terms to see what you’re entitled to. You might be pleasantly surprised or quite disappointed.

    Regardless, it’s still worth complaining to the manufacturer and dealer — as high up the food chain as you can — in a ridiculous situation like this.

    Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Mitch can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.