<a href="mailto: pzekman@cbs.com" target="_blank">Send Your Tips To Pam Zekman</a>By Pam Zekman

CHICAGO (CBS) — Samsung Electronics is now admitting that millions of its flat screen TV’s may have problems that cause them to just shut down.

As 2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports, owners have been complaining about it for years and were unable to get help.

One of them was Brian Kowalkowski, who paid $1,500 for his new Samsung LCD television two years ago. Recently it began clicking, until it eventually turned on. Then, it would not turn on at all.

“It was just dead,” Kowalkowski says. “It was the most amount of money I’ve ever spent on a TV, so I had a hard time believing it. I had no idea what the problem was but I knew I had a serious problem.”

When Brian checked on the Internet, he found thousands of people with the exact same problem. And it turns out repair shops are quite familiar with the problem as well.

It’s caused by apparently defective capacitors that help store energy to smoothly operate the televisions. Each capacitor is relatively inexpensive, about $5 a piece. But if it’s defective it can overheat and shut down your TV.

“You can identify the bad capacitors by the swollenness of the top portion of the capacitor,” Ray Samrah, ABT Electronics Service Manager, says.

“It’s less expensive to repair and replace these capacitors versus replacing the whole TV,” he adds.

Class-action lawsuits filed in three states charge that Samsung Electronics has known for years about the “design and materials defect” that can result in “capacitors failing.” The suits charge that Samsung failed to notify its customers or issue a recall.

It’s a reaction corporate strategy experts see all the time.

“I think companies are doing the cold hard math of what an actual recall is going to cost them,” Paul Larson, an equities strategist at Morningstar, says. “Even if it’s a relatively inexpensive part, it’s quite a significant expense or it can be.

Because his warranty period ended, Samsung told Kowalkowski he had to pay to get his TV repaired. It cost $167 at a television repair shop near his home.

“It should have been zero,” Kowalkowski said. “I feel it should have been taken care of by Samsung.”

Samsung told CBS2 in a written statement that it confirmed in early 2010 that a small percentage of certain models manufactured between 2006 and 2008 had issues caused by capacitors.

But the Samsung spokesman said he could not tell us what the company’s definition is of a “small percentage.”

CBS 2 has learned that a Samsung attorney admitted in an Oklahoma courtroom, where one of the class-action cases is pending, that as many as 7.5 million televisions could have problems.

The company is close to settling that case, which would result in a national resolution of the problem, Samsung says. Once the settlement agreement is approved by the judge, the company will notify consumers about how they can get repairs needed in the future or reimbursed for repairs they have already paid for.

Samsung’s proposed notice says the affected models manufactured between 2006 through 2008 are as follows:  

LCDs: LNT******/XAA; LN**A******XZA; LNS4041DX/XAA; LNS4051DX/XAA; LNS4052DX/XAA; LNS5296DX/XAA

  The asterisks indicate that the affected models include any that begin and end with the combination of letters listed.




Samsung’s written statements:

“A small percentage of certain models of  Samsung televisions have experienced performance issues caused by a component called a capacitor.  Since originally confirming this issue in early 2010, Samsung has voluntarily provided free repairs for U.S. customers with affected televisions. 

As the leading supplier of televisions in the United States, we remain committed to delivering superior technology and excellent service to our loyal customers.  We encourage our customers to call 1-800-SAMSUNG if they experience any problems with Samsung products.

We have recently reached a preliminary settlement, subject to court approval, for a nationwide resolution of a related class action lawsuit in the District Court of Oklahoma County in the state of Oklahoma. Under the settlement, Samsung will continue to offer the free repairs that have already been extended to affected consumers.

The problem does not affect current models so there is no need to contact retailers. Affected consumers will receive a notice as provided for in the settlement agreement, once approved by the court. Per Samsung’s standard policy, in-home repairs are offered for all sizes above 32”. For 32” and smaller, products must be shipped to NJ, but Samsung will cover all costs (in both directions). Also, once the settlement is approved a process will be put into place to compensate consumers who have already paid for a repair.”

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