Pennsylvanians May Lose Out On GM Class Action Settlement
State's Privacy Laws May Work Against Consumers
HOUSTON, May 14 In an ironic twist, nearly 200,000
Pennsylvania owners of General Motors pickup trucks may lose the opportunity
to get cash as a result of a class action settlement involving their fire-
prone pickups because the state's tough privacy laws are making it difficult
to mail notices to class members.
Don Barrett, lead class attorney, said a mailing to 5.8 million owners of
GM pickup trucks was sent out by GM on April 18. That mailing offered owners
of 1973-91 GM full-size pickups with sidesaddle fuel tanks a certificate for
$1,000 off the purchase price of a new GM car or truck. The fuel tank
location allegedly makes these vehicles more likely to explode and burn in a
At the same time, the class attorneys sent out a letter from Certificate
Redemption Group with an offer to buy those certificates for $100 each from GM
truck owners who didn't plan to buy a new vehicle and had no use for them. To
take the cash offer the two letters had to be returned by mail in one
envelope, or recipients could close the deal by using the group's consumer
hotline or Web site.
Pennsylvania truck owners did not get the letter from class counsel with
the cash offer because the state's department of motor vehicles was required
to comply with tough consumer privacy laws and could not grant permission to
use the data.
However, truck owners in Pennsylvania who received the GM letter can still
take advantage of the cash offer, says Barrett, by completing the necessary
steps in the GM mailing and then by calling 800-317-4997, or by logging on to
"I feel badly for the 190,000 Pennsylvanians who own these pickup trucks,"
said Barrett. "Pennsylvania is a pro-consumer state, but here's a situation
where their tough state laws are actually working against consumers by
complicating the transaction."
As a result, said Barrett, the response to the $100 cash offer in
Pennsylvania has been minimal while nationally, more than 800,000 truck owners
have opted for the cash offer and the number continues to grow.
"This automotive class action settlement was unique because it provided a
way for class members to get a certificate or to sell it if they had no use
for it," said James R. Dawley, chairman and CEO of Certificate Redemption
Group, the company selected by class attorneys to handle the program.
The idea behind the cash offer is to create a secondary market for the
certificates so fleets and others could use them to buy new vehicles. In this
way, money could be raised to return to class members.
"By creating the secondary market, we're able to return cash to a much
larger percentage of class members than GM had planned on. GM certainly isn't
happy about our success and continues to fight it, but without our offer to
buy these certificates, only a few consumers would get anything at all from
the lawsuit after waiting nine years," said Dawley.
Dawley said that if one million requests for cash are received, up to $100
million could be returned to the class, a first in class-action lawsuits.