Dealers sue Amiga over deceptive trade practices, fraud

Amiga shipped used part-ridden machines as new, dealers allege

Hell hath no fury than an Amiga dealer scorned, it seems. A whole bunch of 'em, under the banner of the Amiga Dealers' Association (ADA), are suing Amiga, inc. and its parent, Gateway, for breach of promise. The class action suit aims to get the two companies to cough up $3 million -- which, we suspect, is rather more than any of the dealers concerned had a chance of making from Amiga-related sales, but there you go. The suit alleges Amiga and Gateway infringed the US' Deceptive Trade Practices Act, plus statutes on consumer fraud and deceptive advertising. The suit centres on allegations that Amiga sold machines constructed from spare parts taken from old or returned Amiga as new. The dealers -- philanthropic bunch that they are -- want the damages "for the purpose of reimbursing anyone who had to make out-of-warranty repairs due to a previously used part being included in an Amiga computer sold as new". Now this is quite a canny move. Since the repairs were, by ADA's admission, out of warranty, users will have paid the dealers for parts and labour. So if the case is judged in ADA's favour, presumably the users will be refunded, the dealers will keep the money they charged for repairs (there's nothing in the suit to suggest they have already, voluntarily refunded their customers), so everyone wins except Amiga. It's also noteworthy that there's no provision for actually telling such customers they're due a refund (if the case goes to ADA) -- instead, aggrieved users must make themselves known before a preliminary hearing next February to become part of the class action. Any unclaimed refunds will apparently be used to give computers to "public schools or charitable organisations". We'd like to suggest they consider providing a stack of low-end iMacs, which we're sure would go down very nicely. But is there merit in the case? Certainly, chucking out machines containing spare parts as new can't be considered an honourable business practice, but since an Amiga hasn't rolled off the production line for the best part of five years, anyone buying a machine in that period, particularly since the Amiga business is hardly what you'd call a mass market, should perhaps have understood that the computer they were receiving had, at the very least, been sitting in a dusty warehouse for some time. Still, as ADA's suit points out, there's nothing on Amiga's Web sites to suggest that Amigas are out of production or that sales are limited to available stocks and may contain used parts. Of course, proving that Amiga has a policy of shipping machines build out of spares is another matter. Of course, Amiga doesn't deny on its Web site that it works this way, as ADA says it doesn't, but then why would it? It's not hard to find one-off cases of computers from any vendor coming back from repair with used parts installed, but showing that this is both widespread and not performed by the dealer can be tricky. We await Amiga's response with interest. ®

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