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AppleT&T faces twin texting suits

'Mouseprint disclaimer' insufficient

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Apple and AT&T are facing a pair of strikingly similar class-action lawsuits charging that the companies misrepresented the iPhone's ability to send and receive MMS messages when upgraded to iPhone Software 3.0.

Reports of the first lawsuit, filed in the US District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana, began crowding the web yesterday. And today, AppleInsider turned up another, filed in the US District Court in the Southern District of Illinois.

Both suits go into great detail to document Apple's marketing of iPhone Software 3.0 as MMS-capable as being deceptive and describe the reason for AT&T's failure to provide such support being because "AT&T has never upgraded its towers so as to support the functionality necessary for MMS."

Interestingly, the language in the two complaints that describes the failure of Apple and AT&T to get their MMS acts together is essentially identical - and identically snarky.

After detailing the AT&T Answer Center's unhelpful advice on MMS support - "iPhone does not support sending, or receiving picture, audio, or video multimedia messages" - the suits contend that "The 'Fix' was essentially to say 'tough luck.'"

When an MMS message is sent to the iPhone (or any non-MMS-capable device), the suits complain, the Answer Center provides a URL and and advises that "To view the MMS message, please access the website from a computer." This displeases the plaintiffs. "Incredibly," the suits marvel, "AT&T was directing customers interested in MMS to go to a computer to view the message."

Neither are the plaintiffs satisfied with Apple and AT&T's explanation for the missing MMS support. "The only excuse offered by AT&T and Apple is a mouseprint disclaimer on the website, in barely readable font," the suits assert, "which reads 'MMS Support from AT&T coming in late summer.'"

Both suits have named plaintiffs - Christopher Carbine, Ryan Casey, and Lisa Mauer in Louisiana and Tim Meeker in Illinois - and both seek to extend the suit to cover all purchasers of 3G and 3GS iPhones purchased in each jurisdiction.

The Louisiana case claims that the affected class would include "at least 10,000 individuals." The Illinois case move the decimal point one place to the right and ups the class to 100,000.

Both suits also claim that the "amount of controversy" in the case is over $5m - although the Illinois case tacks onto that figure "interests and costs." Both suits seek compensatory damages, and the Illinois suit adds "punitive damages in an amount which is fair and reasonable."

We can only assume that Apple and AT&T saw this coming from the moment when Apple introduced the iPhone 3GS and iPhone Software 3.0 at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference on June 8th and revealed that AT&T wouldn't support MMS until "later this summer." After all, we Americans are a litigious lot - especially when the rest of the world gets something which we are denied.

What may have come as a surprise, though, is that two identical suits popped up it two different courts mere days from one another.

There are 94 US District Courts in the American judicial system. It will be interesting to keep our eye on the remaining 92. ®

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