Racketeering

Florida woman sues Apple for $5 million under racketeering law

May 15, 2013: 8:06 AM ET

Wouldn't it have been easier for Apple to replace her out-of-warranty iPhone 4?

Screen Shot 2013-05-15 at 7.45.28 AMFORTUNE -- This is a classic.

Woman buys an iPhone 4. Fifteen months later the power button stops working. She calls AT&T (T). They send her to Apple (AAPL). She works her way up and down the customer service chain and gets tough love at every turn: Her warranty expired three months ago. She has two choices. Pay for repair ($149.99 plus shipping) or buy new phone.

She goes to the Internet. Finds a thread on Apple's community support site with hundreds of complaints about the same power button. It's been viewed 720,525 times. Finds YouTube video with workarounds viewed more than million times. Finds iFixit instructions for replacing the power button's faulty flex cord that includes a Step 29 rated "difficult."

Adopting the consensus view that the iPhone 4's power button problem is a known manufacturing defect, and buying into the tin-foil-hat theory that it's carefully planned obsolescence -- a part designed to go bad right after the 1-year warranty expires -- she files a class action suit under RICO (the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) for $5 million plus.

This case has resonance because we expect better of Apple. The iPhone has exactly five moving parts. Is it too much to ask that they be engineered to last the life of the device?

China started a media war with Apple to get better warranties. Apparently Debra Hilton of St. Augustine, Fla., felt she had no choice to but to start one here.

Meanwhile, Apple, what's with the customer support policy that digs its heels in on a 15-month-old iPhone with a power button gone bad? Are you trying to create unhappy customers?

PDF: Power Button Lawsuit.

Thanks to GigaOm's John Jeff Roberts for the link.

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