Consumer group files lawsuit, says iPod nano ‘defective,’ claims Apple cannot charge for replacement

Apple Computer’s iPod Nano music player, marketed for its sleek beauty, cannot withstand normal use without becoming severely scratched, often to the point where its screen is unreadable, a consumer group said today in a lawsuit filed in San Mateo Superior Court. Moreover, Apple is refusing to give refunds to purchasers who bought the defective product, while forcing others to pay a $25 fee to get a replacement that is supposed to be ‘free’ under Apple’s warranty.

The suit, brought against Apple Computer, Inc. under the state’s consumer protection laws on behalf of California purchasers of the recently-introduced Nano, demands that Apple recall and repair the defect, without charge, or refund the purchase price to dissatisfied customers. The lawyers in the case are the Burlingame, California-based law firm of Cotchett, Pitre, Simon & McCarthy, and attorneys of the non-profit, Los Angeles-based Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR).

Reports of problems with the Nano became apparent within a few weeks of its introduction last fall, with many consumers complaining on the Internet. Apple has acknowledged there is a problem, at first urging customers to buy a third party cover. Apple now supplies a ‘sleeve’ to cover the Nano.

“Selling ‘cool’ stuff isn’t ‘cool’ if the stuff doesn’t work as advertised and Apple fails to comply with its obligations under its warranty and California laws,” said consumer advocate Harvey Rosenfield, a lawyer for FTCR in a statement. “Like every other industry, Apple must fix products that are defective for free, and refund the costs incurred by its customers.”

“We sent Apple a letter asking that they acknowledge and remedy the problem,” said Bruce Simon, co-lead counsel and partner in the Cotchett firm in a statement. “They chose to not even respond and left us no choice but to bring this case.”

The lawsuit notes that many Nano users pay substantial additional money purchasing music and videos on Apple’s iTunes web site. The iPods, including the Nano, are the only portable devices on which iTunes downloads can be played.

FTCR is a citizen advocacy organization that works in the legislative and judicial arenas. In recent years it has sued cell phone companies, automobile insurers and HMOs for illegal practices. In a previous case against Apple, resolved last year, the Cotchett firm forced the company to offer replacement batteries, or a replacement iPod, for customers whose iPod batteries had failed after only a few years of use, and to issue refunds for certain charges.

More info in the complaint (.pdf) here.

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66 Comments

  1. My car gets dirty when I park it outside, so it is defective.

    My glasses get scratched when I drop them, so they are defective.

    My television doesn’t entertain me when I turn it on, so it is defective.

    Unethical lawyers pander to idiots, so they are defective.

  2. Anyone care to guess whether this action was brought by PC users? Anyone care to guess how long it takes to find a Microsoft connection to this one–like the one in Louisiana?

    MDN Magic Word: “about” – We all know what this is really about.

  3. My Chevy has a bunch of scratches on it from driving through the neighbors bushes.
    Do I go after Chevy for defective paint or the neighbors for scratchy bushes?
    Can I get some advise from a hungry lawyer?

  4. “The iPods, including the Nano, are the only portable devices on which iTunes downloads can be played.”

    That’s funny, I could have sworn you could burn your music to an audio CD and play them on a Discman. I could have also sworn that you could then rip the audio from those burned audio cds into MP3s that can play on pretty much every digital audio player and many mobile phones and PDAs.

    I must be mistaken…

  5. As with all high tech devices, you should take care of your iPod. Do you throw your LCD monitor in your trunk? Do you throw your laptop in the floor of your car when you are traveling? Wake up people!

  6. I agree, the entire iPod line scratches to easily, regardless of how careful you are with them. Apple should strive to improve the surface and finish of them in the future.

  7. Legal maintenance is a standard expense these days. I honestly doubt that each new lawsuit adds expense, as Apple has a full-time legal team already paid to deal with this.

    Lawsuits are just something corporations deal with on a day-to-day basis. The media likes to trumpet the filing of each new suit as an earth-shattering event, but the corporation just shrugs and adds it to the pile. Apple’s lawyers will determine whether these guys have a case. If they do, Apple will settle. If not, the case will drag forward over the next few years. Meanwhile, life goes on, and Apple keeps selling iPods.

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