The first iPhone 4 class action lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland and, as expected, it focuses on the phone’s reception issues. Since the record-breaking launch of Apple‘s latest gadget – 1.7 million were sold during its opening weekend alone – there have been scores of complaints about the device’s antenna design. Holding the phone in a particular spot leads to signal loss and dropped calls, as many new iPhone owners soon unhappily discovered. Apple’s only suggestion to its legions of loyal customers? Either don’t hold the phone that way or buy one of its $30 rubber bumpers.
Neither of these responses were good enough for Maryland residents Kevin McCaffrey and Linda Wrinn, though, the lead plaintiffs in the suit filed by Ward & Ward, PLLC and Charles A. Gilman, LLC on Wednesday.
This suit is different than the one reported earlier this week. On Tuesday, we mentioned how a California law firm by the name of Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff is currently exploring the possibility of a class action suit also based on reception issues.
Lawsuit Claim Negligence, Breach of Warranty, Fraud
The Maryland suit, however, is the first class action suit to have actually been filed. It alleges that Apple, and in some cases, AT&T, have been negligent in selling customers a defective device and the plaintiffs are demanding compensatory damages and “other remedies” in return. Listed among the complaints are general negligence, defect in design, manufacture and assembly, breach of express warranty, breach of implied warranty for merchantability, breach of implied warranty of fitness for a particular purpose, deceptive trade practices, intentional misrepresentation, negligent misrepresentation and fraud by concealment.
In layman’s terms, what these claims are saying is that not only did Apple sell a defective device, it did so knowingly. What’s less clear is why AT&T is also being held responsible for these issues, unless it’s simply a matter of the cellular provider’s function as the phone’s reseller – as the supplier, it has a responsibility to make sure it sells functional devices.
Although it’s unknown at this time whether or not Apple was aware of the reception issues beforehand, there are some oddities surrounding the device’s launch that may make the company look guilty to some outsiders. For example, for the first time ever, Apple began selling iPhone cases. These rubber “bumpers” as they’re called, have been specifically designed to fit the iPhone 4 and are available for $30 in the Apple Store. They’re also, coincidentally, the one proven way to solve the reception issues.
Also potentially damning, is the alleged leaked memo to Apple employees, which details to AppleCare (Apple’s tech support) representatives what steps to follow when dealing with reception complaints from customers. Within its instructions are tips about how to hold the device to avoid touching the antenna and the suggestion to use a case or bumper made of rubber or plastic.
Apple apologists have dismissed these issues as “no big deal,” given that a rubber case effectively solves the problem. Some commenters on the various news and blog sites reporting the news have even scoffed, “if you don’t like it, return it.” Unfortunately, AT&T charges a 10% restocking fee for returns, meaning the entire cost of purchase cannot be recouped even for those who have decided to give up on their new phone entirely.