Judge Approves Settlement With Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab Valued at Estimated $25M – Offers Refunds and Store Credits to Participants

Photo credit: Karl Hörnfeldt

Last August, self-proclaimed audiophile “reissue label” Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab (MFSL) was named in multiple class action lawsuits for allegedly misrepresenting its mastering process. Now, despite objections from some customers, a judge has approved a preliminary multimillion-dollar settlement.

Judge James L. Robart recently approved the proposed settlement, according to legal documents obtained by Digital Music News. As pointed out, the court battles began as early as August 2022, when plaintiffs from several states filed complaints regarding the “Original Master Recording” label that Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab had affixed to its vinyl products.

The identifier, of course, suggests that the items in question were created directly from the corresponding analog masters, and not from digital sources like many other vinyl releases today. But MFSL, the complaints say, has been incorporating Direct Stream Digital into its production process for over a decade – while misrepresenting it and charging a premium for the disc it has.

Meanwhile, Mobile Fidelity President Jim Davis quickly apologized, “for using vague language, spreading false narratives, and for taking for granted our customers’ goodwill and trust in the Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab brand.” Needless to say, those remarks did little to mitigate criticism from disgruntled customers or stem the tide of related litigation.

MFSL sales records show that north of 634,000 the “Original Master Recording” or “UltraDisc One Step” Products were sold between mid-March 2007 and late July last year, roughly 25 percent directly to consumers and 75 percent through retailers such as Walmart.

As written, the proposed settlement would allow each of the “original retail consumers” in the US — specifically excluding those who purchased the items but no longer own them — to receive a full refund should they choose to return them. (An estimated 20,000 of those people bought directly from MFSL, with at least as many buying from retailers.)

Alternatively, students could choose to keep the products (which may fetch more than their original retail prices on the open market) in return for a five percent refund or 10 percent MFSL voucher of the amount spent. Eligible buyers could combine the options and select a coupon (which expires 180 days later) for one record and a refund for another, but in all cases “must provide both proof of purchase and proof of ownership”.

Finally, as to the relevant background details, the two plaintiffs named in the original case would each receive $10,000, while their attorney would receive “no more than $290,000” in legal fees. In opposing the proposed Settlement, the interveners cited above argued, among other things, that these attorneys’ fees were excessive and that the Framework provided “insufficient relief” for class members.

Judge Robart, however, dismissed the related arguments, finding the attorneys’ fees reasonable (“one of the lower proposed fee premiums this court has encountered in a class action settlement”) and noting that “the proposed settlement has the characteristics of a reverse auction.” miss”. ”

Likewise, the presiding judge was not persuaded by the interveners’ complaints that the process for full reimbursement of claims was “unduly cumbersome” or by the alleged disadvantages of excluding those who no longer have the record. It also refuted the argument that “the cash and coupon components of the proposed settlement do not provide sufficient relief because they do not compare favorably to potential liability in court.”

Participants in the group have until September 21 this year to submit their application forms. A final approval hearing is scheduled for October 30.