OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Major dairy producers in the United States are set to pay $52 million in a settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed against them which alleged a conspiracy to jack up the prices of milk and milk products.

The anti-trust lawsuit against defendants National Milk Producers Federation, otherwise known as Cooperatives Working Together, Dairy Farmers of America, Land O’ Lakes, Dairylea Cooperative and Agri-Mark reached a settlement agreement with petitioners headed by Matthew Edwards. A hearing at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Oakland Division, is scheduled on Dec. 16.

At that hearing, the judge is to determine whether the settlement agreement will be granted approval or another course of action will be taken. It will be reviewed whether the amount offered is fair, adequate and reasonable enough to dismiss the class-action lawsuit. If deemed otherwise, the judge could order the lawsuit to go on and deny the settlement agreement.

If approved, the settlement agreement would include all individuals who bought milk or milk products in Arizona, California, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. The period covered is from 2003 to 2011.

In his statement regarding the case, Hagens Berman managing partner Steve Berman, plaintiffs' representative, expressed his pleasure over the settlement agreement. Citing allegedly fraudulent schemes employed by the major dairy producers, he pointed out that the settlement would give back the money owed to the consumers who fell victim to the schemes.

“The biggest dairy producers in the country, responsible for almost 70 percent of the nation’s milk, conspired together in a classic price-fixing scheme, forcing higher prices for a basic food item onto honest consumers and families,” Berman said via Business Wire. The managing partner added, “We’re pleased that this settlement will return some of what consumers lost due to this massive fraud perpetrated for ill-gotten gains.”

Berman also disclosed that the disbursement method for the settlement payments to the consumers is a simple process. According to the lawyer, the convenience is the least the corporations could offer following the consequences suffered by the consumers due to the allegedly fraudulent scheme. Affected individuals could file their claims online or by mail on or before Jan. 21, 2017. The online claim form takes approximately three to five minutes to complete. Moreover, no proof of purchase is required.

“With this settlement, we are happy to offer those affected an incredibly easy reimbursement process, with no proof of purchase required. After being duped by big dairy corporations, we wanted consumers to have a convenient method of payment,” Berman said, according to Business Wire.

If the court grants approval to the settlement agreement, the qualified claimants are eligible to receive cash payments through different channels. They can choose to claim their cash via several online accounts such as Amazon, PayPal, and Google Wallet. There will be two levels of fixed cash payments in accordance with the purchases made by the class member and the total number of individuals who submit the claims.

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