Whose 'Greed' is Addressed in Class Action Law?

The claim that plaintiff’s lawyers are needed by “little guy” to stand up against the Goliath of corporate greed is losing more credibility by the day. The most recent examples of this deception are the class action settlement agreements involving Bluetooth (makers of headsets) and Symantec Corp., the company that sells Norton computer and Internet security products. 

I just received a notice by email that my rights may be affected by the settlement of a class action lawsuit. I never signed up for or even knew a thing about this lawsuit. Yet I was a part of it since I happened to purchase the product sometime between 2001 – 2008. This lawsuit alleges that Symantec has an unlawful policy of terminating subscription time of certain customers who purchased upgrades, without providing a credit or refund for unused subscription time, and that Symantec fails to disclose this policy. But here’s the rub, if I was somehow cheated out of money, why is it I’m being offered a $15 voucher to be used toward the purchase of more products, or the vast sum of $2.50 cash, while the attorneys will get $2,275,000?

In the case of the Bluetooth, the lawyers allege that the company insufficiently advertised risk of hearing loss from turning the volume up too high on a Bluetooth headset, and that constitutes consumer fraud, which merits damages. In this case the settlement offers $0 to the class of “victims” and the plaintiffs' lawyers are asking for $850,000. Bluetooth must also  provide a warning that states, “Exposure to loud noise from any source for extended periods of time may temporarily or permanently affect your hearing.” Oh, and the nine “representative plaintiffs” (often friends or colleagues of the personal injury lawyers) are asking the court for a total of $12,000 in “incentive” payments. 

I’m all for keeping “corporate greed” in check where it’s warranted, but whose interest is really being served in these class action coupon settlements? Whose greed also needs to be kept in check? And is there any doubt the price of these products will increase to cover litigation costs? 

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