NVIDIA Settles Class Action Suit Over Alleged GeForce GTX 970 Memory Deception

Graphics chip maker NVIDIA has agreed to a preliminary settlement in a class-action lawsuit over the marketing and sale of its GeForce GTX 970 graphics cards, which it advertised as having 4GB of onboard GDDR5 memory. The settlement includes a total of 15 consumer class action lawsuits that were consolidated in Northern California, along with pending action in San Diego.

Settlement documents reveal that NVIDIA will pay each buyer of a GeForce GTX 970 graphics card $30, plus an additional $1.3 million towards attorney fees. As part of the settlement, NVIDIA denies all allegations of wrongdoing.

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970

"The settlement is fair and reasonable and falls within the range of possible approval," attorneys for the class-action suite said in the filing. "It is the product of extended arms-length negotiations between experienced attorneys familiar with the legal and factual issues of this case and all settlement class members are treated fairly under the terms of the settlement."

What led to the flurry of class-action lawsuits is the configuration of the GeForce GTX 970's onboard memory. Though it technically has 4GB of GDDR5 memory, 500MB of it is set aside as a "spillover segment" and runs slower than the main 3.5GB portion, for which the GPU has priority access. That's not an issue for games that don't try to address more than 3.5GB of onboard memory, but in instances where they do, performance can be degraded.

NVIDIA had valid technical reasons for dividing the card's memory into 3.5GB and 0.5GB segments, but some buyers took issue with advertising the card as 4GB without explaining how it's configured, particularly since the GTX 980 didn't separate its onboard memory in such a fashion.

"Through their concerted efforts, Defendants engaged in a scheme to mislead consumers nationwide about the characteristics, qualities, uses, and benefits of the GTX 970," the plaintiffs wrote in the amended class-action complaint alleging false advertising, deceptive business practices, negligent misrepresentation, running afoul of California's unfair competition law, and other legal grievances.

Given the GeForce GTX 970's popularity as a high bang-for-buck graphics solution, this settlement is likely to cost NVIDIA a significant chunk of change. As of right now, there are no instructions for consumers on how to claim their settlement award.