A final settlement has been approved for a class action lawsuit alleging that the lamps on certain Toshiba television models failed prematurely, leaving consumers with a useless box sitting in their living room and forced to wait months for a replacement lamp whose cost ran into the hundreds of dollars.
Customers who bought Toshiba DLP sets quickly discovered that the rear-mounted bulb kept burning out, no matter how often it was replaced. The lawsuit alleged that the bulbs, which cost hundreds of dollars apiece, suffered from a systemic defect. It also alleges that Toshiba knowingly misrepresented the bulbs expected lifespan to consumers.
The action, originally filed in 2007 by the Mason Law Firm, LLP, alleged counts of breach of express and implied warranties, as well as counts under a consumer protection law.
Under the settlement, class members will be reimbursed for the cost of bulbs that failed during their useful service life, and the six-month warranty on replacement bulbs has been lengthened to twelve months.
DLP televisions utilize one of several new technologies, competing with plasma and liquid crystal (LCD) sets for consumer attention. DLP, which stands for digital light processing, uses a rear-mounted lamp to project the image onto the screen. The technology is less advanced than that used by plasma and LCD TVs; as a result, the sets are typically bulkier and offer somewhat inferior picture quality, but are less expensive and thus a more attractive option for middle-class households.
DLP sets are also theoretically known for their relative longevity, since plasmas and LCD sets degrade over time. However, the bulb issues surprised consumers who thought they were buying a long-term investment for their living rooms.
Toshiba originally estimated the bulb would last 8,000 hours under optimal conditions. As the problem surfaced, however, customers commonly complained that their bulb burned out after 300 hours or only two months of use, on average.
A new bulb typically runs about $300, and with installation costs, consumers can expect to fork over about $500 every time the bulb is replaced. Many customers complained of having to wait months for a replacement lamp to arrive, and several were told that Toshiba was only willing to replace the lamp once.
In a statement, Gary Rosen, the plaintiffs lead attorney, said, This settlement accomplishes precisely what we sought to achieve when filing this litigation. It fully addresses the complaints of class members who reasonably expected their high-end DLP televisions to last several years without the need to purchase costly replacement parts.
While the settlement is no doubt a welcome relief for consumers who have spent hundreds or even thousands to avoid missing the next installment of American Idol, customers may again find themselves out in the cold once the extended warranty runs out, as the settlement makes no mention of a bulb redesign.
Approximately 265,000 Americans are members of the class, and the total settlement is valued at over $1 million. Class members consist of anyone who purchased a 2004 or 2005 Toshiba DLP set between January 1, 2004, and September 18, 2008. Class members warranties will automatically be extended to twelve months, regardless of whether they file a claim form.
However, to receive a refund for previously-purchased bulbs or to receive a free replacement bulb, class members must submit a claim form within 90 days of the final settlement approval. Those who believe that may be entitled to recovery can fill out a claim form at the suits settlement website.