Consumers sue Apple over iPhone antenna problems

Customer displays an iPhone 4 purchased at the Apple Store 5th Avenue in New York Reuters – A customer displays an iPhone 4 purchased at the Apple Store 5th Avenue in New York June 24, 2010. REUTERS/Eric …
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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Apple Inc has been sued by iPhone customers in at least three complaints related to antenna problems on its newest model.

Apple launched the iPhone 4 last week to a huge groundswell of demand. But the launch was also plagued by complaints from some customers about poor call reception on the device when they held it in a certain way.

The problems have been a hot topic on the Internet, but it is unclear how many people have been affected. The issue does not seem to have hurt iPhone sales so far. Apple sold 1.7 million new iPhones in the first three days.

A putative class action filed Tuesday in the U.S. District court for the Northern District of California against Apple and AT&T Inc -- the iPhone's exclusive wireless carrier in the United States -- includes allegations of fraud by concealment, negligence, intentional misrepresentation and defective design.

"The iPhone 4 manifests design and manufacturing defects that were known to defendants before it was released which were not disclosed to consumers, namely, a connection problem caused by the iPhone 4's antenna configuration that makes it difficult or impossible to maintain a connection to AT&T's network," the lawsuit said.

It said Apple and AT&T have failed to provide customer support and customers have been left with only thee remedies: "hold their phones in an awkward and unnatural manner," pay a 10 percent restocking fee and return their phones, or pay $29.95 to buy one of Apple's cases that are said to fix the reception problem.

The iPhone 4 represents a complete redesign over the previous model. A band around the rim of the smartphone acts as its antenna.

The company responded to user complaints last week by saying the antenna performance of every wireless phone is impacted in some way by the how it is held, depending on where the antenna is located.

Apple and AT&T both decline to comment on Thursday.

In another purported class action complaint filed on Wednesday against Apple and AT&T, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Kevin McCaffrey and Linda Wrinn said they were sold "defective" iPhone 4 units, which drop calls and data service, "when held in a manner consistent with normal wireless phone use."

Both suits cite emails reportedly sent from Apple Chief executive Steve Jobs, responding to iPhone customers complaints' about reception. Those responses were widely circulated on the Internet.

In one response, Jobs said: "Just avoid holding it (the iPhone] in that way."

The cases are 10-02862 Goodglick v. Apple Inc, and 10-01776 McCaffrey et al v. Apple Inc. et al.

The shares of Cupertino, California-based Apple fell 1.5 percent to $247.80 in midday trading on the Nasdaq. The shares of Dallas-based AT&T fell 0.4 percent to $24.18 on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Gabriel Madway; editing by Andre Grenon)

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6 Comments

  • 2 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 3 users disliked this comment
    JoeK Thu Jul 01, 2010 12:26 pm PDT Report Abuse
    At least some lawyers will make some money from it...

    Too bad it doesn't help anyone else. Most people have no problems with the phone and the few that actually do have some problem may get a few dollars out of it.

    If you aren't happy with the phone why not just take it back?
  • 7 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 3 users disliked this comment
    VaVaVoom Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:50 am PDT Report Abuse
    Now the mactards realize Steve Jobs are out to milk their clueless a$$es with his oh so clever marketing gimmicks.
  • 5 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 2 users disliked this comment
    Jason Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:44 am PDT Report Abuse
    Apple could have easily avoided this.

    Just include the $30 dollar black rubber band accessory for free... I mean really... $30 for a black band?
    I bet it cost them pennies to make.

    On top of including that minor but necessary accessory... don't play it off like your consumers are complete idiots...
    Fanboy and Halo Effect maybe... but not stupid...

    Also Mr. CEO Steve Jobs pulled a BP worthy comment: "Just avoid holding it (the iPhone] in that way."
    Really... is that the best you can do... even if he was joking, it is one sure way to piss people off.

    It will be interesting to see how far this goes, but I imagine it will end in a settlement of: (options)
    1) Free Black Band Accessory
    2) No Restocking Fee

    Do I think a software update can fix the real issue: NO
    Can a software fix help to mitigate/mask the issue: Probably

    Apple will come out of this ok in the end, but it has definately put a "Bad Taste" in peoples mouths/lives.

    I am just waiting for the next WebOS device and Tablet :}
  • 3 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 2 users disliked this comment
    shadowfish Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:33 am PDT Report Abuse
    Ha! That didn't take long. The Apple corporate gorillas know they have a reception problem that can be partially fixed with a rubber case on the phone but they refuse to offer them for free to their affected consumers. Greed and money over customer satisfaction. Take it or leave it attitude.
  • 5 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 8 users disliked this comment
    Brooks520 Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:30 am PDT Report Abuse
    Holy cow. Do people really have nothing better to do than look for ways to tie up our legal system. Just get over it and buy a case for the phone, and don't give me crap about having to spend more money on a case. You just bought a $200+ phone, you can shell out $30 more
  • 0 users liked this comment Please sign in to rate this comment up. Please sign in to rate this comment down. 0 users disliked this comment
    RJ Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:06 am PDT Report Abuse
    'nuff said.

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