Many consumers who pride themselves on counting every penny may be missing out on money they're owed. That's because they're failing to collect on class action settlements that could range from just a bucks, to hundreds of dollars.
This week, NBC4 learned the city of Los Angeles will have to pay thousands of residents $50 each after settling a class-action suit over telephone taxes.
But even if you're not eligible for that settlement, you may still have money coming to you from a different court ruling.
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For example, if you took home cans of Starkist tuna or tubes of Tom's Toothpaste or boxes of Kashi cereal over the past few years, you may be entitled to some cash — as much as $50, depending on the product you purchased. They're among the products and companies listed on the website, topclassactions.com, which alerts consumers to class action settlements. In many cases, consumers don't need even proof of purchase to make a claim.
According to the site, millions of dollars are left unclaimed, simply because people don't know about these settlements. Densely worded court mailings alerting consumers of settlements are often ignored.
"Most people think it's junk mail and throw it away," said Stuart Talley, a consumer attorney.
Talley thinks some corporations like it that way.
"The companies usually want to make the class notice as confusing and complicated as they possible can," he said. "They don't want people to take advantage of the benefits."
There are deadlines to file a class action settlement claim. For instance — if you want to submit one for the Starkist tuna settlement — you need to do it by Friday, November 20. Settlement money that goes unclaimed will sometimes go to charity — or be handed back to the defendant.
To find out if you’re eligible to take part in a class action settlement, go here.