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Blockbuster Offers to Settle Suits

June 5, 2001

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MIAMI (AP) _ Blockbuster Inc. is offering to settle 23 class-action lawsuits by customers claiming they’ve paid inflated fees for overdue video rentals.

All customers charged extended viewing or non-return fees at its stores between Jan. 1, 1992, and April 1, 2001, will be eligible for items such as free video rentals and dollar-off coupons for purchases if Blockbuster’s offer is approved by the federal court.

Blockbuster also is proposing to pay a total of $9.25 million to the plaintiff’s attorneys, which it said will constitute about 2 percent of the face value of the coupons available under the settlement. That would make the total settlement approach $450 million if all coupons were redeemed.

Dallas-based Blockbuster, the largest video-rental chain in the world with about 7,700 stores, began running ads in newspapers last week and has posted the offer on its Web site.

To qualify, customers must fill out and return claim forms _ now being attached to store receipts _ before Dec. 15. The coupons will be good for redemption between Jan. 15 and May 15 of next year.

``Defending lawsuits like these requires both time and money, so in the best interest of our company we’ve decided to settle the cases,″ Ed Stead, executive vice president and general counsel, told The Miami Herald for a story in its Tuesday editions.

The agreement would settle class-action lawsuits filed by individuals in Jefferson and Harris counties in Texas that accuse Blockbuster of charging excessive ``extended viewing fees″ and changing its policy without first notifying customers.

The video rental company has defended its practices and said the extended viewing fees will remain.

A hearing is to be held Dec. 10 in federal court in Beaumont, Texas, to determine if the proposed settlement should be approved.

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On the Net:

Blockbuster: http://www.blockbuster.com

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