Advocate: Most consumers don’t cash in on class action suits

Companies often settle these suits without admitting wrongdoing


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Companies accused of inconveniencing, misleading, or injuring their customers can face a class action lawsuit, but most consumers don’t claim their share of those settlements because they don’t know they’re owed money.

In an effort to change that, advocacy group Consumer Action started posting the suits online.

“I think consumers would be very surprised at just how many class action lawsuits they were a part of,” said Consumer Action’s Joe Ridout.

Ridout says hundreds of suits are filed each year to essentially punish companies for misleading customers and if you’ve purchased a product, odds are you’ve been entitled to class action cash.

It’s estimated that less than 10% of eligible consumers claim their share of these settlements, so Consumer Action has created a database to help consumers collect.

For instance, have you ever bought Johnson & Johnson baby products or Seventh Generation cleaning products? You may be eligible for $10 to $30 due to alleged misleading claims.

Ridout says proof of purchase is oftentimes not necessary.

“Even for some of these very large amounts, it’s not necessarily a high burden of proof,” he said.

Current payouts range from $0.50 for anyone who bought a Starbucks breakfast sandwich last summer to thousands of dollars for those compromised by the 2014 Home Depot data breach.

Companies often settle these suits without admitting wrongdoing.

Legal analyst Melissa Caen said it’s the lawyers who take home the biggest cut, but the threat of a lawsuit does help keep companies honest.

“Consumers are never going to get rich off a class action,” said Caen. “The biggest benefit to consumers is the threat of the lawsuit.”

Every settlement does have a deadline and filing a claim for something you never purchased is considered fraud.