Be careful your product lives up to what you advertise it to be and be careful it does what you say it will do; that’s the lesson that many tech companies are learning the hard way. Microsoft recently found that out as its facing an uphill battle to fight against a class lawsuit alleging it intentionally deceived using “Vista Capable” stickers to sell chipsets.
Now Apple is mired in a similar mess, based on some of its a bit exaggerated claims. Apple’s bold advertising claim that its MacBooks support “millions of colors.” The only problem — MacBook LCD are only 6-bit TN models, only allowing for only 262,144 colors. A true 8-bit display would indeed support “millions of colors”, 16,777,216 colors in fact. However, Apple opted to ditch the eight bit display in favor of a cheaper 6 bit one, despite the high cost of Macs.
Apple had already been sued once over the issue. A pair of MacBook owners, Fred Greaves and Dave Gately, filed a class action suit against Apple last May for the claim. Most lawyers at the time dismissed the case as frivolous. The case’s own lawyers realized that they would not be able to obtain class action due to difficulty finding enough plaintiffs who bought the Macs singly on the “millions of colors” advertising, and thus pursued alternative legal action, adding to many observers cyncism on the seriousness of the suit. The suit became even more of a joke in the legal community when it buttressed its claims with discussion board threads from apple.com support and other online fora showing customers angry about the poor LCD quality.
The pair’s representation cited numerous comments such as, “I’m so tired of dealing with Apple at this point, that I don’t have the energy or time to continue even though they’ve done everything they possibly could,” one of the anonymous comments posted on Apple.com’s customer support.
Despite being blown off as a frivolous suit, Greaves and Gately scored an unlikely victory against Apple. Apple settled with the pair out of court last month, bringing the case to a close. Part of Apple’s settlement agreement was that the pair could not discuss the precise settlement terms with the press. Thus it is uncertain exactly how much Apple paid the pair for to drop the suit and for their silence.
Apple isn’t the first manufacturer to make the 6-bit versus 8-bit claim. Then AnandTech editor and present Global Tech News editor Kristopher Kubicki blasted Dell, Viewsonic, Samsung and other display manufacturers for similar practices in 2004. Most of these companies were also successfully sued for misleading consumers about the color depth of their monitors.
In 2004, AU Optoelectronics — the largest manufacturer of 6-bit LCD panels at the time — attempted to deflect the 6-bit claim by advertising its panels use interpolation techniques to create millions of colors. The argument then shifted to whether or not “millions of colors” means “millions of colors at the same time.” However, interpolation techniques use more RGB cells to generate colors, and cannot really be compared to 8-bit panels.
However, the legal woes for Apple about “millions of colors” is hardly over. Hot on the heels of the settlement, Los Angeles legal firm powerhouse, Kabateck Brown Kellner, smelled blood and filed a class action against Apple for false advertising. The firm is well known for its pending class action suit against Network Solutions over domain name tasting and its click-fraud suit against Google, among many high profile legal actions.
Managing partner Brian Kabatech states, “Apple is duping its customers into thinking they’re buying ‘new and improved’ when in fact they’re getting stuck with ‘new and inferior’.”
Apple, no stranger to class action suits, refused to comment on the pending suit, but given their previous settlement and Kabateck Brown Kellner’s shining class action track record, they surely are a bit worried. Kabateck Brown Kellner meanwhile insists that its not just out to loot Apple; rather it states its trying to bring the consumer justice after being harmed by Apple. The firm says it wants “to help those customers who were deceived and make sure Apple tells the truth in the future.”
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