Digital World: Classy actions that can make you rich

The firm of Gordon Tilden Thomas & Cordell LLP is presenting a class-action suit against Microsoft.

By DAVID SHAMAH
March 11, 2008 11:22
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microsoft logo 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Feeling a little short these days - of money, that is? Subprime crisis and credit crunch left you high and dry? Anemic dollar versus strong shekel means you have less of each? Here's an idea: Get in on some of the class-action lawsuits going on in the computer world these days. It's found money! Note that I said "some" of the class-action suits. Nobody (except lawyers, of course) ever got rich off a class-action lawsuit - the class tends to be too big. But if you join a bunch of such lawsuits, you can get more than one piece of the pie. It's like getting on the gravy train! Class-action suits (in Israel, the concept is known as a teviah yitzugit) are generally complaints that a large group of people have in common - usually over a substandard product or service (http://tinyurl.com/2olctv). The idea behind such suits is, among other things, to make the legal process smoother and more efficient, as judges or juries only have to consider and decide on a single complaint. Attorneys like them too, because, the thinking goes, the bigger the suit, the more of an impression it makes. In addition, the damages done to each individual plaintiff may not be enough of an incentive for a court case, meaning that defendants can continue to get away with whatever it is they are doing wrong. With a class-action case, complainants who feel ripped off are more likely to demand justice. But not everyone is a fan of class-action suits; the settlements are usually very small and disproportionate (the settlement is spread out equally among those with greater and lesser claims of damage). On the other hand, a class-action suit is often the only way a lowly consumer is going to have a chance to get justice from a business giant like Microsoft. But if you picked up a "Vista-ready" laptop or PC on a recent trip to the US, you may have a chance to recoup some of your money (and/or other restitution; I wouldn't expect a check). The firm of Gordon Tilden Thomas & Cordell LLP is at your service, presenting a class-action suit against Microsoft for misrepresenting the capabilities of computers to run its new Vista operating system. "Consumers paid for Vista capability (the computers were priced higher because of their Vista capability), but allegedly did not receive 'real' Vista capability," reads a US District Court decision from several weeks ago, certifying the case as a class-action suit. The computers, many of them low-end, were labeled as being "Vista-ready," but customers found that they were incapable of taking advantage of many of the features of Vista, because their video cards were not able to use the Aero display, Media Center PC interface or Flip 3D window-switching. In addition, many of the peripherals that work with Windows XP won't work with Vista, because drivers are not available or don't work. The lawsuit was first brought last year by a Washington State woman, but the law firm successfully argued that many consumers have similar complaints - opening the way for the suit to be certified as a class-action suit. Apparently, the issue is one of either a misunderstanding between customers and Microsoft, or over-enthusiastic sales on the part of salespeople. Any new computer sold with Vista is capable of running Vista - in its basic version, that is. It would seem that many people got or were given the impression that even cheap computers were capable of running Vista Premium, with all its bells and whistles. Should Microsoft have known better or been more careful in the way it presented Vista? That's for the court to decide, but if you want to get in on the action, check out http://tinyurl.com/28rjuy to see if you qualify. It appears that Microsoft is going to have a hard time contending with this action; apparently Vista's "dog" status was well known to Microsoft insiders (http://tinyurl.com/2tcnc9), who in a series of e-mails (released for the trial) apparently knew all about the problems with Vista - and went to market anyway, with what the plaintiffs contend was deceptive marketing. If you were one of the early adopters who bought a Samsung Blu-ray DVD player, you're in luck - you, too, can sue! Now that Toshiba's HD-DVD has more or less thrown in the towel, with Sony's Blu-ray standard the winner in the next-generation DVD format war, Samsung BD-P1000 Blu-ray DVD owners (other models have issues as well) have an extra reason to be hopping mad; their "victory" has been marred by the fact that their machines can't play several popular movies (http://tinyurl.com/2ty4mt). Samsung may just be the tip of the iceberg, industry insiders say, with the company likely to claim that it cannot be at fault, since standards for Blu-Ray were still in development when the machines in question were sold (June 2006). Purchasers of Blu-ray DVDs from other makers have also had their share of complaints, but this is the first certified class-action lawsuit against a Blu-ray DVD maker (other manufacturers in the industry have been sued over patent or other issues). Because of the standards argument, and being that Samsung has issued several firmware updates to ensure full compatibility for players, the company has a better chance than Microsoft of surviving the consumer onslaught. Then there's the scam Network Solutions has apparently been running, according to yet another lawsuit. The company would automatically buy domain names that potential buyers searched for, and hold onto them for at least several days (http://tinyurl.com/ytu67u). Anyone who wanted to buy the names had to buy them from the company - for $35, instead of the eight bucks it would have cost you at a service like Godaddy.com. Network Solutions has a story, of course, but a lawsuit is in the works, and may be granted class-action status as well. If you've ever been a customer of Verizon Wireless in the US and had to pay an early termination fee to get out of your contract, you could get a piece of a whopping $1 billion that the company is being sued for in a class-action suit (http://tinyurl.com/2slx6u). And if you own a Treo 600 or 650 PDA and have had to repair it two or more times, check out http://www.palzasettlement.com/ and file for a cash rebate ($50 or $75) in a recently settled case. It may not solve all your financial woes, but like I said, if you can get in on a bunch of these suits, you'll be riding down Easy Street in no time! http://digital.newzgeek.com

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