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Settlement reached over screen sizes

POSTED January 14, 2011 9:46 p.m.

A settlement between several television manufacturers and the District Attorney’s Offices of six counties, including Stanislaus and Merced, was reached over how screen size measurements are advertised to consumers.

A consumer protection regulatory action was filed against LG Electronics, Panasonic, Samsung, Sharp and Sony, claiming the screen size advertised varied from the actual measurement.

The Stanislaus County Weights and Measures Department brought this consumer issue to the attention of the Stanislaus County District Attorney’s Office following a local consumer complaint. A preliminary investigation by Weights and Measures Departments from several counties revealed that a substantial number of televisions had an actual diagonal screen measurement different from what was represented.

Viewable picture size is one of a number of characteristics that are disclosed to consumers. The television companies historically described the viewable screen sizes of the television models they manufacture by rounding the number of inches, measured diagonally, to the nearest whole number. For example, a television that was described as “40 inches diagonal” or “40 inches” might have had an actual diagonal viewable picture screen size that was smaller or larger than 40 inches. This practice of rounding to the nearest integer was a long-standing, industry-wide practice. It was the opinion of the District Attorneys that this practice was incompatible with existing law.

The action was filed in Alameda County and the settlement was reached Dec. 30, 2010. The manufacturers, all of whom stipulated to the judgment without admitting liability, are now subject to an injunction that clarifies how screen size measurements are to be represented in the future. They agreed to contribute a total of $1,125,000 worth of televisions or other audio-visual equipment to schools and other public institutions throughout California. They also agreed to pay investigative costs and other relief in the total amount of $1,250,000.

The District Attorneys involved in the action have stated that the manufacturers have voluntarily changed their practices and now disclose the viewable diagonal picture screen size to the nearest tenth of an inch.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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