Hot Coffee settlement site percolating

Customers offended by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas sex minigame can now sign up to receive checks from class action suit.

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With Grand Theft Auto IV finally issued a concrete release date (again), Take-Two Interactive may finally be getting the chance to fully put the San Andreas Hot Coffee scandal behind it. The publisher agreed to settle a class action lawsuit centered around the controversial minigame last November, and gamers can now visit an official Web site to sign up for their piece of the settlement pie.

Under the terms of the settlement, Take-Two will be offering a handful of remedies to customers, from an exchange program to replace AO-rated versions of the game with M-rated discs to cash payments. In order to claim the benefits, customers will have to swear that they bought a copy of the game before July 20, 2005 (the day San Andreas was rated AO for Adults Only by the Entertainment Software Rating Board), and were "offended and upset by the ability of consumers to modify and alter the game's content" with the mod. They also have to swear that they wouldn't have purchased the game if they'd known about the mod, and would have returned the game upon learning of the mod if they thought they could.

Anyone with a copy of the original San Andreas can exchange it for a replacement disc without the objectionable content. Those who have a detailed receipt from the purchase of the disc can get a cash payment of $35 or 75 percent of the purchase price, whichever is less. If someone submits a credit card statement or canceled check made out to a store that sold the game, that person can get reimbursed for the lesser of $17.50 or 35 percent of the purchase price.

Even gamers without proof of purchase or even a copy of the game are eligible for restitution. Those who swear to the approximate location and date of purchase can get $10 if they also send in a San Andreas disc to be replaced, or $5 if they no longer have the disc.

Take-Two has said it will spend at least $1 million on settlement benefits, but its out-of-pocket costs as a result of the agreement will be capped at $2.75 million. If the total number of claims against the publisher amounts to more than that, the cash payments will be trimmed across the board on a prorated basis.

By signing up to receive benefits, customers are waiving their rights to sue Take-Two over the Hot Coffee issue on their own. Those who want to retain those rights must opt out of the settlement agreement in writing. For more details, visit the settlement site.

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