Samsung, Flash Memory Makers Fend Off Group Lawsuit

Samsung Electronics Co., Toshiba Corp. and other makers of flash-memory chips won a court ruling that bars a collective price-fixing lawsuit against them on behalf of U.S. consumers who purchased computer memory cards and drives and digital media players.

U.S. District Judge Saundra Armstrong in Oakland, California, denied a request by consumers’ lawyers to certify a class action, or group, antitrust lawsuit seeking damages for indirect purchasers of flash-memory chips, according to an order filed today. The semiconductors are used in portable storage devices and in Apple Inc.’s iPhone to store songs.

Lawsuits consolidated before Armstrong claim consumers paid inflated prices for electronics containing flash-memory chips because manufacturers conspired to fix prices. Samsung and Toshiba, the world’s two largest makers of the chips, said in August that the U.S. Justice Department ended a two-year probe into possible antitrust violations in the industry.

Armstrong is weighing a request by lawyers for direct purchasers of flash-memory chips, such as Internet and data- network equipment makers, to certify their lawsuit as a group case. Retail customers of Samsung and other makers of liquid-crystal display panels won permission in March to sue screen makers as a group for alleged price fixing.

The flash-memory case is In re Flash Memory Antitrust Litigation, 07-86, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (Oakland).

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